[asa] creationism and evolution in Canadian schools

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Fri Aug 28 2009 - 07:59:28 EDT

David C:

The situation in Canada is more complicated than you've indicated.

First of all, education is controlled by the provinces, and each province has its own rules.

Newfoundland had at one time several publically funded school systems, whose rights were guaranteed by its provincial constitution. However, it has changed its constitution and for the last few years had only one secular public system. See:


In Ontario, due to agreements that pre-dated Confederation, Catholic education was funded at the elementary level, but no other religious group was allowed funding at any level. In the 1970s, the Ontario government, backed by the courts, extended full funding to Catholic schools up to the end of high school. There was a divisive social battle over that. A year or two ago, we had an election in which the leader of the opposition party advocated full funding for religious schools of all denominations (on the grounds that it was unfair that only Catholics, and not Jews, Mennonites, Muslims, etc. could have their own publically funded schools). He and his party were slaughtered in the election. The public has grudgingly accepted publically funded Catholic education as a historical anomaly which cannot be undone, but wants no truck or trade with denominational schools. So as it stands, we have two publically funded systems in Ontario, a secular public system and a Catholic one. And there is not likely to be any further movement to publically fund religious schools in the near future.

For a discussion of the issues in the aforementioned Ontario election, and some discussion of religious schools in Canada generally, see:


I have heard less about what goes on in the other provinces. Apparently the Maritime provinces all have public funding for secular schools only, whereas Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia have *partial* funding for denominational schools. To find out *which* denominational schools are funded, and whether there are any "strings attached" to the funding, one would have to do province-by-province research. Information could doubtless be found on each province's Ministry of Education website.

Regarding the Ontario scene, which I know the most about, Catholic schools in Ontario of course are free to teach Catholic doctrine. But Catholic teaching is not "creationist" in the American popular sense. Catholic teaching is that God created the world and life and man, but that it is permissible to understand evolution as the *mode* of God's creation. Many, if not most, Catholic kids graduate from Ontario schools believing that evolution is just fine (subject to the Roman teaching that a special action of God was needed to endow man with a human as opposed to a merely primate soul). So neither in the secular nor the Catholic schools in Ontario is there a big deal about evolution; it's generally accepted.

The point to be made here, David, is that American readers should not understand, from your remark, that Canadian parents who want their kids taught "creationism", can have that done in public schools here. They can't, at least not in Ontario (which has 40% or more of Canada's population), and not in most of the rest of Canada. Those parents who want their kids taught "creationism" will in almost all cases have to send them to private schools run by various evangelical or fundamentalist denominations or alliances -- and those parents will pay the whole tab for their kids' education. And most Canadian parents wouldn't bother to send their kids to a religious school, at that price, merely to avoid having them exposed to evolutionary thought, especially since (in Ontario at least) evolutionary thought isn't stressed in the biology curriculum. It isn't even mentioned in Grades 9 and 10 science -- a wise policy which I've already suggested American state educational authorities should adopt -- and it isn't covered in any depth until Grade 12. And since no one has to take biology past Grade 10, no one is forced to learn about evolution, and there's just no war over evolution here worth mentioning.

I would say there is nothing wrong with the First Amendment itself. It's the activist, revisionist reading of its intention by judges that is the problem. Aside from the question whether the judicial extension of the First Amendment to cover the affairs of individual States was proper, no historically or philosophically honest interpretation of the First Amendment could read it as forbidding a science teacher from mentioning the bare possibility that things might be designed, as opposed to having arisen by chance. My position on this point is more or less the same as Ted Davis's.

Could you explain the "doctrine of incorporation"?


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Clounch
  To: Murray Hogg
  Cc: ASA
  Sent: Friday, August 28, 2009 1:18 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Re: (Santa?) [christians_in_science] Brilliant article by Dawkins


  I have been told by Canadian friends that the government there has no problem funding religious schools, and these schools can teach creationism if they like. These Canadians think the Americans are nuts and that we should just dump our stupid constitution and the entire controversy will then just go away.

  In the US things have changed quite a bit over the course of history. I remember a case in the early 1800's where a school that took public funds didn't want to teach from the Bible. The supreme court ruled they had to because they took public funding. Congress at one point (and I recall this was while Jefferson was president) allocated $500,000 per year for Catholic schools on the frontier. This was passed by the same group of men who wrote the constitution. Most were still serving at the time. AFAIK Jefferson signed it. So much for myths about separation of church and state, heh?

  Our turnaround on this sort of thing started in 1931 due to the "doctrine of incorporation". Its a 20th century phenomenon. And it has certainly turned the country on its head.

  It sounds like Australia also has an interesting legal history too.


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Received on Fri Aug 28 08:01:00 2009

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