"Ethics course exemption rejected by Quebec court"

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"Ethics course exemption rejected by Quebec court"


A group of Quebec parents seeking a legal exemption for their schoolchildren from a controversial ethics course have lost their bid in court.

In a ruling earlier this week, Quebec's Superior Court rejected a request from a coalition of Drummondville parents who believe the new ethics and religion course compromises their children's moral education.

Judge Jean-Guy Dubois said the parents' and children's right to freedom of religion is not being violated by taking the course, which was introduced last year to elementary and high schools by Quebec's Education Ministry ...


martin dufresne


The ethics course is still pathetically Christianity-centered, but the claimants were the worst backward-looking people in the province, including the Anglo Catholic establishment: Montreal's prestigious Loyola High School is also challenging the course, seeking a comprehensive exemption for all students at the Jesuit Catholic institution.


I think compulsory courses in world religions is an effective antidote to religious prejudice and fanaticism.


I was going to get around to posting about this - very happy about the court decision. What is even more important IMO is that the number and seriousness of the challenges is tiny. Religious public schools were eliminated in 1998, and the vestigial religious courses were abolished in September 2008. This is the last gasp of a handful of holdouts. The next steps will have to be reduction and (ultimately) elimination of public subsidies to private schools, which must be higher in Québec than anywhere else...


martin dufresne

About those "vestigial religious courses"... read this interview with the main author of the new course to realize how much it remains Xtianity-centered. Old wine in new urns, if you ask me...


This will ultimately end up in the SCC, I presume. Is there any backlash in Quebec at all to cases being referred to the SCC, Unionist, within the sovereinist movement?


The battle doesn't line up along those lines, Caissa. Politically, everyone (even Liberals via lip service) recognizes the Assemblée Nationale as being supreme. Judicially, of course there have been SCC decisions which outraged sovereignists (on the Clarity Act, on some aspects of Bill 101) and which are broadly seen as interference. But no particular nationalist allegiance attaches to the court system here.

Take this case. A federally-appointed judge (all judges in Canada at the superior court level or above are federally appointed) sides with a rich anglo Catholic boys' school to undermine a Québec government secularist educational initiative... I can't see anyone objecting to this going to the Supreme Court... or, more likely, demanding legislation to override such an atrocious decision.



Well, that was fast, and not unexpected:

[url=http://www.montrealgazette.com/Quebec+plans+appeal+Loyola+ethics+ruling/... plans to appeal Loyola ethics ruling[/url]

Significantly, the announcement came from Charest himself. He understands clearly that if he is not seen as taking the lead on secular control of education, someone else will.



Well, I suppose they have to go to the barricades over this one, but...ethics courses? You mean like the ones that are mandatory in MBA programs?

Unionist, I see that you indict Douglas Farrow as "an unregenerate homophone". Does this mean he recites Noel Coward at parties? I know it's offensive behaviour, but when I do it people are kind enough to force a pained smile.


Frightening and dangerous decision by Québec Superior Court - could have been written by Benedict himself:

[url=http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Ruling+calls+imposition+ethics+class... calls imposition of ethics class 'totalitarian'[/url]


On Friday, Superior Court Justice Gerard Dugre compared the attempt of the education minister to impose a secular emphasis on Loyola High School's teaching of the course to the intolerance of the Spanish Inquisition.

"The obligation imposed on Loyola to teach the ethics and religious culture course in a lay fashion assumes a totalitarian character essentially equivalent to Galileo's being ordered by the Inquisition to deny the Copernican universe," the judge wrote in his 63-page decision.

This is a school which receives 60% funding from the public.

The "judge" gives much weight in his ruling to an "expert witness" by the name of Douglas Farrow, whose testimony he says was "uncontradicted" - indicating that the rich little Catholic boys' school likely spent many times more than the government in litigating this case.

Douglas Farrow is an unregenerate homophobe and misogynist, enemy of birth control, equal marriage, homosexuality, and low birth rates - as reflected in his screed [url=http://catholicinsight.com/online/reviews/books/article_797.shtml]Nation of Bastards: Essays on the End of Marriage[/url].

One of the "judge's" big points was that the "supremacy of God" enjoys constitutional protection! You'll recall that Svend Robinson was relegated to the back benches merely for filing a constituents' petition asking for this to be deleted.

One can only pray for divine intervention on the part of the government - they are studying the ruling to decide whether to appeal. It is inconceivable that Québec society will accept such a leap back into the Middle Ages and the Grand Noirceur.




' ... Donavan reiterates the view that Loyola objects to the ethics part of the course because it is "relativistic." This accusation is false. The course promotes critical thinking and the opening up of students to different perspectives. This is not relativism.

'Relativism is the view that anything goes, and all opinions are equally valid. This is not what we say when we demand that points of view be respected and listened to. There are truer and more objective views. However, it is necessary to insist that educators allow students to see different points of view, and come to the conclusion themselves about the rightness or wrongness of a practice or act. This is true whether one is discussing slavery, sexuality, or abortion.

'Loyola insists that it be allowed to offer the Catholic view. This is its right, and was not prohibited by the inclusion of the new course.  Let us note, however, that Loyola's demand that a teacher offer one view right away before discussion does go against the spirit of doing philosophy, which encourages thinking ... '


Very good op-ed - thanks for posting, Todd.



The Supreme Court of Canada will hear an appeal by parents who don't want their children exposed to information about the wrong faiths. Sorry for this terrible article, which only quotes the anti-secular forces:

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2011/05/18/quebec-court.htm...'s disputed religion course before top court[/url]

A legal challenge to the controversial Ethics and Religious Culture program taught in Quebec's schools will be heard at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday.

The program was introduced in 2008 to elementary and high schools by Quebec's Education Ministry.

It replaces religion classes with a curriculum covering all major faiths found in Quebec culture, including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and aboriginal beliefs.

Some parents have been fighting unsuccessfully to keep their children out of the program.

In September 2009, Quebec's Superior Court rejected a request for an exemption from a coalition of Drummondville parents who believe the new ethics and religion course compromises their children's moral education.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Moving to Québec forum.


Religious fanatics who are getting mad that they're kids are being taught about religion.  I know it's not just me who thinks this, but doesn't this really just make them look like insecure people who know damn well everything they believe is fake?

these people are just religious (white) supremacists.


@milo: that's the way I see it too.


it's funny cause i remember when someone complained about how they don't do xmas in school and how it's "going too far" to accommodate people, my response was: what if we just celebrate all cultural events equally?  then then instead of forcing people to only pay attention to one religious/cultural event we can celebrate all of them.  no one feels left out and we might all learn something interesting about each other.

the response was:  dead silence.  issues like this really bring out the self centered, hypocritical, racist and petty nature of some people, that's for sure.  Let;s just hope the supreme court doesn't buy it. 


Eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court's decision on this appeal this morning.




We won!

Just heard it on the radio - will post a link when I find one.

Now Justin can't do another "if this is the way Canada is going, we're leaving!|"



Canada's top court on Friday rejected an appeal from parents in Quebec who sought the right to keep their children out of an ethics and religious culture program taught in the province's schools.

The program, which was introduced in 2008 to elementary and high schools by the provincial Education Ministry, replaced religion classes with a curriculum covering all major faiths found in Quebec culture, including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and aboriginal beliefs.

"Unless it can be found that any exposure of children to realities that differ from those in their family environment is unacceptable in light of the constitutional or quasi-constitutional protection conferred on freedom of religion, [the court] cannot conclude that the appellants have been able to prove their case," the Supreme Court of Canada said in its ruling.



[url=http://scc.lexum.org/en/2012/2012scc7/2012scc7.html]Here's the full text of the decision.[/url]

It looks unanimous to me.

This is a huge rebuff to indoctrination of children by their parents in one religion without ever exposing them to information about others.


M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The [url=http://ccla.org/2012/02/17/supreme-court-addresses-freedom-of-religion-i... Civil Liberties Association[/url] intervened on the losing side of this appeal, [url=http://ccla.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Final-Factum-for-We... that the parents' belief that the course in question contradicted the beliefs and values that they were trying to inculcate in their children was sincere, and therefore worthy of reasonable accommodation:

CCLA intervened in this case to ensure that ‘sincerity of belief’ remains the approach to assessing freedom of religion claims. While the Court did affirm this test and rejected relying on religious experts or leaders, the Court’s statement that there is a need to show an infringement on an objective basis is somewhat concerning as it has the potential to dilute the protection of freedom of religion under the Charter.  It remains to be seen what impact this decision will have on the protection of freedom of religion generally and ongoing issues around religion in the schools.


I'm a bit surprised at the CCLA's stand here. The same argument could be used to allow parents to knuckle-drag their kids out of classes on sex education, or evolution, or math.

ETA: On the other hand, maybe I misunderstood - if their only real aim was to show that freedom of conscience does not need to be backed up by evidence of what churches or religious authorities say, but rather is assessed on the basis of the individual, then that's proper. Too bad they had to be on the wrong side of the appeal in order to make that argument, though.



Interesting case. I think the CCLA is right to provide the best defence possible, and I'm pleased with the court's ruling.

The crux of it is that some religious beliefs don't tolerate even awareness let alone tolerance or acceptance of other religious beliefs.

However Canadian values and laws promote awareness and tolerance.I think the court struck the right balance.

I think a mandatory course in comparative religions is a great idea for Canadian students

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

I'd like to see a mandatory course in comparative political theory for Canadian students.


deb93 wrote:
I think a mandatory course in comparative religions is a great idea for Canadian students
[my emphasis]

It's important to understand the historical context here. Québec abolished religious public schools after securing an amendment to section 93 of the BNA Act in 1997, and replaced them by linguistic school boards. As a transition, from about 2000 to 2008, students (or rather parents) were given a choice between a Catholic, Protestant, or secular (ethics & relgions) course. That ended in September 2008, with the abolishment of the religious options. The ethics and religious culture course became mandatory - including in private schools. That's what triggered the court challenges.

In short, this course didn't evolve as a "great idea". It was part of a process of getting rid of religious instruction in public schools. That would be IMHO a "great idea" for the rest of Canada, or at least those provinces which still maintain fully-funded schools run by religious bodies and teaching religion.