Ontario Court of Appeal hears case for parental rights
|Defending parental rights in Ontario and Canada|
Yesterday, June 26th, Dr. Steve Tourloukis, the courageous Hamilton father was before the Ontario Court of Appeal to defend his parental rights against the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. Does the state have the power to overrule parental rights and legally force “inclusive” education in taxpayer funded public schools? The just and right answer is no. True inclusion must welcome those who oppose. Every parent in Ontario and in Canada has the natural and God given right to direct the education of their children.
Before saying anything about the latest proceedings in the courtroom, we want to sincerely thank all the people who have donated money and helped the Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund. Your financial support and prayers for Tourloukis and his family are a sign of support for all parents. The case has cost over $100,000. Tourloukis and his family are counting on our backing. The other side uses taxpayers’ money to make the case against parental rights and religious liberty.
First, a little background. The Hamilton-Wentworth Public School Board (HWDSB) refused Tourloukis’ written request to give him advance notice of sex “education” lessons dealing with abortion, contraception, homosexuality and other controversial issues.
Tourloukis had asked to be formally informed of any sensitive lesson content planned for his two young children, at that time in kindergarten and Grade 2, so that he could decide whether to prepare them in advance of the lessons, according to his own Greek Orthodox Christian faith, or otherwise, to remove them from class. The school board told Tourloukis that they could not accommodate his request. In fact, the board made it clear that they would not tell him when the lessons would be taught and the topics covered. The board claimed they had the obligation to “inclusive and diversity” education. So, in 2012 Tourloukis took the HWDSB to court.
Last year, at the court hearing in Hamilton the judge ruled in favor of the HWDSB and against the father’s rights. The judge did recognize that Tourloukis’ religious freedom rights were violated, but he concluded that school board had a “superior” right to teach the government’s secular curriculum and undermine parental rights. “Inclusive and diversity” education trumps parental rights. We disagree. This was a terrible and unjust decision. The judge even instructed Tourloukis to send his children to a private school. If this is the case, then all parents, who decide to remove their children from the public school system, should receive a refund for tax money they pay to fund public education. This way they can homeschool or spend the funds in a school that meets and reflects their values.
The ruling was appealed and the hearing took place yesterday at the Court of Appeal for Ontario in Toronto. This time there three judges who heard Tourloukis case. Again, as was the case in the Hamilton courtroom last year, there were six lawyers siding against Tourloukis: two from the elementary teachers’ union, two from the Attorney General of Ontario and two from the HWDSB. We thankfully had one intervenor on our behalf from the Christian Legal Fellowship. The proceedings went all day. It’s difficult to say how it will go. The judges have now taken time to make a decision. We should have a verdict in a couple of months. Let’s keep praying.
This is an important court case because if the Chapter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution are is used to legitimize beyond question “inclusive and diversity” education, then Canadians have little protection from the power of the state. We must reject “a blueprint for moral conformity” decided by the state. The Attorney General of Ontario’s main argument is “that it would be ‘harmful to the right of other students to feel accepted and welcomed if they, as would be likely, learned the reasons why the Applicant’s (Tourloukis) children were not attending school” and that this would “undermine the Board’s message that it is important to accept, welcome, and celebrate diversity’. The Board also argued that accommodating Touloukis’ request would “directly impact the ability of Ontario public schools to provide students with a positive, inclusive, and supportive educational environment”. This is wrong and unjust. Creating welcoming schools cannot be done by legally shutting the doors to those who disagree and discriminate against them.
The lawyer for the HWDSB went further and tried to make a strong case not that school boards now have the legal obligation to more than merely teach “inclusive and diversity” education, but they must celebrate and encourage it. To defend her argument she referred to the government’s Policy/Program Memorandum 119, the Equity Inclusive and Education Strategy and Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act. In short, policies and laws now allow those in power to undermine parental rights and the Christian view of the person, human sexuality and family.
In fairness, there should be space for Christian values and beliefs in public schools and the public square. Otherwise the push for “inclusive and diversity” schools is a farcical perversity. Tourloukis, like every other Ontario parent, has constitutionally the protection of religious beliefs. The state has come to view this right as something “negative, harmful, and antithetical to the educational environment.” This is completely unjust and discriminatory.
Interested readers may go to the Parental Rights In Education Defense Fund for information about the case. Except for the verbal arguments heard yesterday, the legal documents can all be found at the bottom of the linked page. It’s difficult to know how the final ruling will go; we just have to wait. This is how the legal system works. It’s slow and too often blind.