Thursday, January 24, 2008

Conservative nomination candidate in Mississauga South attacks secular school system

Don Stephens, Peel District School Board trustee for Mississauga's Ward 2, and candidate for the federal Conservative nomination in Mississauga South (and presumed frontrunner, as the other two candidates don't really have any name recognition) issued an attack on the public and secular education system, saying there is a "total neglect" neglect of Christianity in Peel's public schools.

This article was in the Mississauga News, but can't be found on the website, so I'm taking these quotes directly from the text.

"There is a gap across numerous schools in regard to the major religion of Canada, which is the Christian faith"

"At a number of schools there was minimal, or a total neglect, in representing the Christian faith"

Stephens then asked what steps the administration had taken "to ensure that schools understand and represent Christianity"

Given the multicultural nature of Mississauga South, Stephens comments are likely more an appeal to the base of the Conservatives, rather than an actual policy proposal, but it is still unsettling. When Stevens calls Christianity the "major religion" of Canada, I simply think back to my days at Port Credit Secondary School, a wonderfully diverse place (which would have had its diversity ruined if John Tory and Tim Peterson had had their way) where yes, a balanced and informative Religion class was taught, and students of all faiths intermixed, and where Christianity was by no means the major religion of the school. The Canadian multicultural and multi religious way could be best seen at Port Credit in the way each holiday and season during the year had a student run event for it, so within the same school year you could see and hear Christmas carols, Hindu food and dancing, and Muslim Friday prayers in the drama room. These were all examples of students, as private individuals, displaying faith in a communal setting, and it sets a wonderful example for Canadian multicultural policy being a success. Stephens demands that public, secular institutions formalize Christian supremacy would be a step back.

Issues like these and faith based funding show the clear difference between Liberals and Conservatives on our multicultural society. Liberals believe in cultural exchange and co-operation, finding unity in diversity, while Conservative are stuck in the colonial mindset that somehow each group will be happier if they keep to themselves and accept the dominance of superior culture. In an area as diverse as Mississauga, we can't afford to move backwards on multiculturalism.

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