Educational Diversity


Education is always founded on conceptions of what constitutes the good life and the common good.[1] Different segments of the population have different perceptions of what is good, how to rank and prioritize certain goods, and when and how these goods should be taught to their children. A uniform, inflexible educational system is ill-suited for a country as diverse as Canada.[2] A pluralistic educational system is as essential to education as a multi-party system is to a vibrant democracy. Just as a democracy functions best with multiple political parties reflecting diverse viewpoints of the common good, so our educational system should accommodate diverse worldviews in order to thrive.[3]

Unfortunately, Canada has relatively little of this diversity in its educational system. In the 2018-19 school year, 91.8% of all elementary and secondary students were enrolled in a public school.[4], [5] Although there is some diversity within public schools – francophone schools, Catholic schools (in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario), charter schools (in Alberta), and alternative schools (various provinces) – the vast majority of students attend secular, non-specialized public schools.[6] Only 7.4% of students were enrolled in an independent school and 0.6% were homeschooled,[7] although those percentages have steadily increased over the past couple of decades.[8]

Some academics and advocates argue that education’s importance justifies the provincial governments’ well-nigh monopoly on providing education.[9] This argument, however, is deeply flawed. Food is even more essential to life than education, yet the government does not produce and distribute all food to its citizens. The government does not run grocery stores or require citizens to shop at the grocery store nearest their residence.[10] In fact, the absence of the direct provision of food by the state is largely responsible for the abundance, diversity, quality, and relatively low cost of food today.

This is not to say that the state has no responsibility in the realm of education. Just as the federal government issues guidelines around nutrition in Canada’s food guide and sets food safety standards, so provincial governments may require that children receive an education that fosters, in the words of education scholar Melissa Moschella, “minimally decent citizenship.”[11] Education has also long been recognized as a merit good with spillover effects to the wider society. [12] The direction and quality of fellow citizens’ education profoundly impacts others – at the ballot box, in work settings, and in everyday interpersonal interactions. Nevertheless, the state need not take direct responsibility for educating 90% of students in order to accomplish the goal of good education.

So why do provincial governments directly provide the majority of children’s education? Alexis de Tocqueville, in his landmark Democracy in America, observed that “every central government worships uniformity.”[13] Canada’s largely uniform educational system reflects the tendency of provincial governments to centralize, despite the diversity of people in each province. This lack of educational pluralism and choice is a problem on three fronts: it encroaches on the moral responsibility of parents to educate their children, it infringes on legal and constitutional rights in the realm of education, and it hampers the success of students.

The Moral Case for Educational Pluralism: Parental Responsibility in Education

The responsibility and the right of parents to direct the education of their children springs from the natural, unique relationship between parents and their children.[14] Over the first few months and potentially years of their lives, children are almost exclusively raised by their parents. Over time, parents may gradually delegate some of their responsibility to professional caregivers and teachers. However, their right and responsibility are never forfeited, but only delegated,[15] as Canada’s Supreme Court affirms.[16] Ultimately, parental responsibilities towards their children are non-transferable.[17] Just as citizens have a personal responsibility to engage in the democratic process – no other person can vote on their behalf – so too parents have a personal responsibility to choose and direct the education that is best for their children.[18]

The responsibility of parents over their children’s education is also a distinctly Christian perspective (although other religious and non-religious people hold the same view). Throughout the Bible, God commanded parents to teach their children the law of God,[19] their shared history,[20] and their religious practices.[21] The wisdom of the book of Proverbs is imparted as from parents to children: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”[22]

Although parents bear the primary responsibility to educate their children that is both natural and biblical, they do not have the exclusive interest in their children’s education. The state rightly has a compelling interest in promoting general civil obedience, mutual respect among citizens, economic self-sufficiency, and civic participation and responsibility.[23] It is also in the common good to have a literate, numerate population. However, the state may only abrogate parents’ primary responsibility and authority in cases of criminal abuse or neglect.[24]

Providing different conceptions of what is good should never be considered abuse or neglect justifying state intervention.[25] The Supreme Court of Canada seems to agree: unless the provincial government can demonstrate that consistently teaching from a religious, cultural, or philosophical perspective is not in the best interests of children and will result in “demonstrated neglect or unsuitability,”[26] the State ought not to interfere with how these parents raise their children. The responsibility or the right of parents to direct the education of their children “is one of the most fundamental of all human rights…when this right is no longer acknowledged, then much of what is most precious in human existence is endangered.”[27]

Abuse or neglect sets a high bar for state intervention. Although policymakers may often cite abuse or neglect as a justification for state intervention in education, these justifications rarely survive close scrutiny. For example, proponents of the British public school system in the 1800s claimed that the majority of parents neglected to adequately educate their children. They proposed mandatory, state-run education as the solution. However, educational historian E. G. West demonstrates that parents’ alleged failure to educate their children rarely rose to the level of abuse or neglect. Before the advent of public school, parents were already ensuring that their children received an education en masse and sacrificing precious disposable income to accomplish this goal.[28] We agree with West that “the state’s educational powers are to be regarded as powers of last resort” rather than the default means of education.[29]

Although the purpose of this policy report is to highlight policies that provincial governments can enact in the realm of education, if education is primarily a parental responsibility, then parents – rather than governments – should take first action to rectify inadequacies in education. Numerous studies show that parental engagement, or at least involvement, in education is a central influence on students’ academic performance.[30] The decline of civil institutions within society and the rise of interventionist governments have allowed or perhaps encouraged parents to abdicate their inherent responsibility to educate their children. One of the greatest boosts to the Canadian educational system would be for parents to become more engaged in their children’s education.

The Legal Case for Educational Pluralism: Fundamental Freedoms and Constitutional Guarantees

The fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly freedom of association (section 2(d)) and freedom of religion (section 2(a)) support educational pluralism.

Freedom of Association

Justice Dickson, former Chief Justice of Canada, articulated why freedom of association is fundamental: “The most natural privilege of man, next to the right of acting for himself, is that of combining his exertions with those of his fellow creatures and of acting in common with them… No legislator can attack it without impairing the foundations of society.”[31] According to Justices Le Dain and Sopinka, freedom of association “must be applied to a wide range of associations or organizations of a political, religious, social or economic nature, with a wide variety of objects, as well as activity by which the objects may be pursued.”[32] This must include independent schools. At their core, independent schools are local associations of like-minded parents whose purpose is to educate their children according to their own values or preferences.

Freedom of association is diversity’s friend. By respecting, protecting, and encouraging associational freedom – also through supporting independent schools and homeschooling – provincial governments provide “a key resource to minorities who have experienced oppression elsewhere … [and] accommodates vulnerable communities and subcultures.”[33] Freedom of association protects the rights of individuals to freely associate in order to engage in various pursuits, including educating their children in a particular tradition.

When diversity is understood to apply not just to individuals but also to groups and associations,[LM1]  and when distinct associations are recognized as a means to “empower vulnerable groups and help them work to right imbalances in society,” then freedom of association “protects marginalized groups and makes possible a more equal society.”[34] Recognizing and supporting independent education respects the good of free association.

The Supreme Court has stated that “to meaningfully uphold this individual right [to associate], s. 2(d) may properly require legislative protection of group or collective activities.”[35]  Although the Court was specifically referring to collective bargaining arrangements in this case, the principle should no less apply to support for independent education.[36]

Furthermore, freedom of association is particularly important for the exercise of the other fundamental freedoms of expression and religion.[37] Education is unavoidably linked to conceptions of what is good and bad, right and wrong. Hence, education is inextricably linked to individual conscience and religion. The dominant worldview of public schools has become especially obvious in teaching about sexual ethics and philosophical views on autonomy. When it comes to moral and religious matters, it is impossible for schools to remain neutral; ethical, metaphysical, and epistemological presuppositions are intertwined in all subjects.[38] For example, in his examination of approved teaching resources, educator Donald Oppewal finds that public schools consistently adopt religious convictions in their teaching, especially from the religious worldview of secular humanism.[39] Members of society who find such teachings to be contrary to their conscience and religious convictions cannot fully participate in such schools and must seek exemptions from particular classes or enrol in a school that respects their convictions. Both options are very difficult when the civil government refuses to support the choice and responsibility of parents.

Freedom of Religion

  • The Charter of Rights and Freedoms lists freedom of religion as one of four fundamental freedoms. This is precisely because religious identification is at the very heart of the identity of millions of Canadians. Instilling this religious identity in their children at a young age is non-negotiable to people of faith. From a Christian perspective, Proverbs 22:6 advises, “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” God commands parents to teach the ways of God “diligently to your children and talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.”[40]
  • In recent years, the Truth and Reconciliation Report described Canada’s residential schools system as a “cultural genocide” that destroyed the structures and practices that allowed First Nations to thrive.[41] Among other things, the residential schools system should be understood in terms of a legal wrong involving violations of family integrity. Given the importance of education in passing down religious beliefs and cultural identity, provincial governments must learn from the tragic mistakes of the past and ensure that faith-based and culture-based schools continue to have the freedom and encouragement to operate.
  • Recent legal cases support this right for faith-based schools to exist. In Big M Drug Mart, Justice Dickson noted that freedom of religionmust be interpreted in a “generous rather than a legalistic” fashion and explained that freedom of religion includes “the right to manifest religious belief… by teaching and dissemination.”[42] He wrote the now famous words: “Freedom can primarily be characterized by the absence of coercion or constraint. … [C]oercion includes indirect forms of control which … limit alternative courses of conduct available to others.”[43]
  • Justice McLachlin wrote, “The right to teach children religious beliefs and share with them religious practices is arguably as much an aspect of religious practice as going to church.”[44] ARPA Canada wholeheartedly agrees. Indeed, teaching children from a religious perspective, different from the religious perspective of public schools, is the very reason many Canadians have established their own independent schools as an alternative to the public schools.
  • In R. v. Jones, Justice La Forest observed that freedom of religion encompasses the rights of parents to educate their children according to their religious beliefs.[45] He later affirmed this position, writing in B.(R.), “It seems to me that the right of parents to rear their children according to their religious beliefs… is an equally fundamental aspect of freedom of religion.”[46] In Chamberlain, after reviewing Canadian jurisprudence on the paramount role of parents in childrearing, Justices Gonthier and Bastarache concluded:
  • … parents clearly have the right, whether protected by s. 7 or s. 2(a) of the Charter, to nurture, educate and make decisions for their children, as long as these decisions are in the children’s “best interests.” Parents will be presumed to be acting in their children’s “best interests” unless the contrary is shown.[47]
International Law
International law also affirms the moral and legal rights of parents in directing the education of their child:

“Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” ~ United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26.3

“The child [has the right] to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and “parents [have] rights and duties … to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right.” ~ United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 14

“Parents have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child… [the state] shall render appropriate assistance to parents.” ~ United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 18

Education should be directed to “the development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity… and values.” ~ United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 29.1(c)

“The right to education includes the freedom to set up educational establishments, on a basis of due respect for democratic principles and for the right of parents to ensure that their children are educated and taught according to their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions.” ~ European Parliament Resolution of 12 June 2018 on Modernisation of Education in the EU, Statement J

Other Constitutional Considerations

Canada’s government recognized the importance of educational pluralism before and at Confederation. Section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 extends full funding and recognition to Catholic and Francophone schools in Ontario, recognizing the importance that education plays in preserving a cultural heritage. As a result, Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan have fully funded Catholic schools within the public education system. The Manitoba Schools Question – the fight over whether Catholic, francophone schools in Manitoba would receive similar funding in the late 1800s – also demonstrated the importance of language, religion, and parental responsibility with respect to schooling.[48] Section 23 of the Charter guarantees minority language education rights to parents who fit particular qualifications. And finally, section 27 guarantees that all rights and freedoms in the Charter (including freedom of religion and association and related education rights) “shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.” A diverse spectrum of independent schools will enhance the multicultural heritage of Canada.

The existence of First Nations schools leads to another legal consideration. Although it never made it through committee stage, the First Nations Control Over First Nations Education Act demonstrated the importance of school diversity within Canada.[49] Respect for the values and priorities of unique communities is necessary to permit educational diversity to flourish. Giving support only (or predominantly) to a one-size-fits-all approach to child education is untenable in a multicultural society like Canada.[50]

The Evidence-Based Argument for Educational Pluralism: Delivering Effective Education

The commonly stated purposes of education are to instill fundamental literacy, numeracy, and scientific skills to young people, to prepare them for future vocations, and to equip them to be positive contributors to a democratic and pluralistic society.[51] Both public and independent schools operate with these goals in mind, though these are certainly not the only goals of education.[52] A major difference between public schools, independent schools, and homeschooling is who is responsible for achieving these goals, and, secondarily, how best to achieve them. If the goals of public schools, independent schools, and homeschooling overlap, then educational policy should favour an educational system that most effectively and efficiently achieves these goals.

Ultimately, a pluralistic education system – one that features a substantial mix of public schools, independent schools, and homeschooling – best achieves these goals. [53] The current system, dominated by public schools, is lacking and, in some provinces, horribly so.

There are two primary reasons that a pluralistic education system outperforms a monolithic school system: first, independent schools and homeschooling provide a better match between students and schools. They specialize in specific programs (e.g. music, theatre, or athletics) to capitalize on the natural abilities of students, or they promote cultural values and philosophical or religious beliefs that align with those of the parents and students, reducing cognitive dissonance between differing values taught at home, in school, and in religious institutions. This helps students to thrive.[54]

Secondly, independent schools and homeschooling increase the quality of all schools through competition for students.[55] Education in Canada, particularly in the Maritime provinces, is nearly monopolized by provincial governments, and geographic limitations and the lack of open enrollment policies lead to captive markets within each school district. Because public schools are funded on a per student basis through public taxation, little to no financial incentive exists for schools to improve educational quality.[56] This monopoly power, captive market, and funding arrangement can make public schools unresponsive to the desires of parents and students – particularly minorities – and offers little incentive to improve educational outcomes.[57] Moreover, there is much less accountability for poor student (or teacher) performance. Market pressures and competition, introduced by the enlarged presence of independent schools and greater diversity and mobility within the public system, can incentivize schools to improve their offerings and outcomes.[58]

 Numerous studies show that not only do independent schools outperform public schools in a variety of subjects, particularly reading, writing, and mathematics, but that the mere presence of independent schools in an area positively impacts test scores in neighbouring public schools.[59] Researchers Bosetti, Brown, & Hasan found that this increase in test scores occurred for virtually all student groups and were most pronounced for the economically disadvantaged and racial minorities.[60] If, in fact, teachers, politicians, and policymakers are particularly concerned with the education of vulnerable groups, then a uniform public system is worse for poor and minority children[j2] [DH3] . Researchers have also documented that education pluralism programs increase the rate of high school graduation.[61] In Ontario, researcher Leonard demonstrated that competition between Catholic separate schools and traditional public schools increases the rate of university applicants.[62] Within Canada, higher math, reading, and science test scores are correlated with higher degrees of educational pluralism in their policy frameworks and overall number of independent schools found British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec.[63]

   Other studies also find that greater diversity and mobility within the public system improves educational outcomes. For example, British Columbia introduced a province-wide open enrolment policy in 2001, granting parents the discretion to send their child to any public school in the province (though maintaining priority for students within the school’s district). This policy raised the average student’s reading and mathematics scores, particularly in urban areas where competition between schools is greater than in rural areas.[64]

Not only do the presence of independent schools and homeschooling increase levels of educational achievement, but the majority of the academic literature also indicates that these types of education create more well-rounded citizens. Numerous studies find that independent (religious) schools statistically produce graduates who are more invested in the common good, donate more, volunteer more, and are less of a burden on public expenditures.[65] Although these benefits are often overlooked in evaluations of public education versus independent education, they are crucial elements to good citizenship.

Education in the Netherlands: A Case Study

The presence of pluralistic educational systems around the world demonstrates that this model of education works. The Netherlands provides a classic example. [66] Virtually all Dutch schools are publicly funded, provided that they operate as a non-profit. The government allocates funds to schools on a per capita basis – funding follows the student. Despite the centralized and equalized funding of students, each school has considerable discretion regarding hiring, curriculum, and teaching philosophies. Most schools are operated by non-governmental organizations, and a plurality of schools are managed by religious organizations. All students, regardless of whether they attend a public or independent school, may attend any school of their (or their parents’) choosing. Although critics of educational pluralism often worry about inequities between schools or elitist schools, neither are present to a significant degree in Dutch schools.

This system of educational pluralism in the Netherlands yields high educational outcomes at a relatively low cost. The Netherlands spends approximately the Organization of Economically Developed Countries (OECD) average for primary and secondary education, yet Dutch students consistently rank above the OECD average on test scores and other measures of educational quality. Religious independent schools within the country also tend to outperform their non-sectarian public counterparts.

The case of the Netherlands demonstrates that it is not necessary for the state to regulate and fund and provide primary and secondary education to achieve high educational outcomes. Although the government extends funding to virtually all schools and guides educational practice through regulation, the actual provision of education is capably met by non-governmental and religious organizations. Clearly, “the fear of the state’s retreat from matters of importance in education policy with the introduction of market forces is not founded… a large, pluralistic school system can promote efficiency and equity.”[67] If pluralism is efficient and equitable in a relatively homogenous country like the Netherlands, how much more fitting would a pluralistic system be in such a diverse country as Canada?


  1. A free, pluralistic society should “pursue a policy of maximum feasible accommodation, limited only by the core requirements of individual security and civic unity.”[68] Canada’s provincial governments can do more to maximize the accommodation of independent schooling.

The moral, legal, and evidence-based arguments outlined above all support the case for greater educational pluralism in Canada. Parents have the moral responsibility to direct the education of their children. The Constitution, legal cases, and international law all support a pluralistic educational system. An abundance of academic literature demonstrate that educational pluralism delivers sound, if not superior, educational results.

 Many Canadians support such a system of pluralistic education, and many Canadians are increasingly seeking alternatives to the traditional public school system.[69] Policy innovations should include the following:

  1. Enshrine in provincial legislation the right of parents to select for their children the  independent school of their choosing or to homeschool their children.
  2. Allow parents to review all curricula – particularly religious, ethical, and sexual education curricula – and to exempt children from specific classes that will discuss value-laden material.
  3. Require schools to disclose to parents what extra-curricular programs, clubs, and activities their children are involved in.
  4. Allow more choice among public schools by opening catchment boundaries, providing an adequate number of spaces for out-of-catchment students, and satisfying demand for public French immersion, charter, alternative, and distributed schools.
  5. Allocate funding according to a per-capita formula for all public school, independent school, and homeschooled students.
  6. Decentralize, where possible, educational decisions over budgeting, hiring, curricula, teaching pedagogies, school policies, and religious or philosophical orientation to local school boards and individual school administrative staff. Provincial government should ensure that plentiful opportunities for education exist but leave greater discretion to schools to actually provide that education.


Canada’s diverse population is best served by educational systems that provide a wide latitude of educational pluralism. If policymakers wish to serve children’s best interests, they should give careful thought to the recommendations and research cited here in support of a pluralistic educational system. Educational systems with a high degree of pluralism, like the Dutch model, are more effective and efficient than public monopolies. True educational pluralism requires not only that governments allow independent schools and homeschooling to exist but also that governments encourage and breathe life into independent schools and homeschooling by providing fair funding and true independence to such schools.


[1] Ashley Berner, “Education for the Common Good,” Education Next (blog), 2017.

[2] Nicholas P. Wolterstorff, Educating for Life: Reflections on Christian Teaching and Learning, ed. Gloria Goris Stronks and Clarence W. Joldersma (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 196.

[3] Donald Oppewal, A Reformed Christian Perspective on Education: Fifty Years of Footprints (Grand Rapids, MI: Chapbook Press, 2012), 92.

[4] Statistics Canada, “Table 37-10-0109-01 Number of Students in Elementary and Secondary Schools, by School Type and Program Type,” November 2, 2018.

[5] In a sense, all schools are “public” insofar as schooling is compulsory, accountable to provincial education ministries, benefits society in general, and (in some cases) funded by provincial government. Within this report, “public schools” refers to schools run by provincial or federal governments while “independent schools” refers to schools managed by religious, non-profit, or for-profit organizations

[6] Angela MacLeod and Sazid Hasan, “Where Our Students Are Educated: Measuring Student Enrolment in Canada – 2017” (Fraser Institute, 2017).

[7] For a detailed study of home schooling in Canada, see Deani Neven Van Pelt, “Home Schooling in Canada: The Current Picture—2015 Edition” (Home Schooling in Canada: The Current Picture – 2015 Edition, 2015).

[8] Statistics Canada, “Table 37-10-0109-01 Number of Students in Elementary and Secondary Schools, by School Type and Program Type”; Lynn Bosetti, Deani Van Pelt, and Derek J. Allison, “The Changing Landscape of School Choice in Canada: From Pluralism to Parental Preference?,” Educational Policy Analysis Archives 27, no. 38 (2017); MacLeod and Hasan, “Where Our Students Are Educated: Measuring Student Enrolment in Canada – 2017”; Paul W. Bennett, The State of the System: A Reality Check on Canada’s Schools (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020).

[9] See, for example, the arguments of Stephen Macedo, Eamonn Callan, and Amy Gutmann as summarized in Melissa Moschella, To Whom Do Children Belong? Parental Rights, Civic Education and Children’s Autonomy (New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 74–118.

[10] For a more fulsome version of this argument, see E. G. West, Education and the State: A Study in Political Economy, Third (Indiana: Liberty Fund, 1994), 11–12.

[11] Moschella, To Whom Do Children Belong? supra note 9 at 116–18.

[12] Caroline M. Hoxby, The Economics of School Choice (University of Chicago Press, 2003).

[13] Requoted in West, Education and the State, supra note 10 at 230.

[14] Moschella, To Whom Do Children Belong? supra note 9 at 6.

[15] Louis Berkof, “The Christian School and Authority,” in Foundations of Christian Education: Addresses to Christian Teachers (USA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1990), 112.

[16] R. v. Audet, [1996] 2 S.C.R. 171 at para. 41 where Justice La Forest wrote, “Parents delegate their parental authority to teachers and entrust them with the responsibility of instilling in their children a large part of the store of learning they will acquire during their development.” [emphasis added]. See also R. v. Jones, [1986] 2 S.C.R. 284 at 298.

[17] Moschella, To Whom Do Children Belong? supra note 9 at 33.

[18] Moschella, To Whom Do Children Belong? supra note 9 at 33.

[19] Deuteronomy 6:7 & 11:19

[20] Joshua 4:7

[21] Exodus 12:26-27; see also Louis Berkof, “Our Attitude Toward the Christian School,” in Foundations of Christian Education: Addresses to Christian Parents (USA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1990), 29; Joseph Boot, The Mission of God: A Manifesto of Hope for Society (Toronto: Freedom International Press Inc., 2016), 429 and Genesis 18:18-19, Exodus 18:22-26, Deuteronomy 1:16-17, Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Psalm 78:1-8, Proverbs 22:6, Matthew 22:17-21, Ephesians 6:4, Romans 13:1-7, and I Peter 2:13-15.

[22] See Proverbs 1:8, 1:10, 1:15, 2:1, 3:1, 3:11, 3:21, 4:10, 4:20, 5:1, 5:7, 5:20, 6:1, 6:3, 6:20, 7:1, 7:24, 8:32, 19:27, 23:15, 23:19, 23:26, 24:13, & 24:21

[23] Moschella, To Whom Do Children Belong? supra note 9 at 117.

[24] Moschella, To Whom Do Children Belong? supra note 9 at 170.

[25] Moschella, To Whom Do Children Belong? supra note 9 at 152–53.

[26] B.(R.) v. Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto, [1995] 1 S.C.R. 315, at para. 85.

[27] Nicholas P. Wolterstorff, Educating for Life, supra note 2 at 213.

[28] West, Education and the State, supra note 10.

[29] West, Education and the State, supra note 10 at 311.

[30] Kathryn A. Levine and Dawn Sutherland, “History Repeats Itself: Parental Involvement in Children’s Career Exploration,” Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy 47, no. 2 (2013): 239–55; Esther Ho Sui-Chu and J. Douglas Willms, “Effects of Parental Involvement On Eight Grade Achievement,” Sociology of Education 69 (April 1, 1996); Charles Desforges and Alberto Abouchaar, The Impact of Parental Involvement, Parental Support and Family Education on Pupil Achievement and Adjustment: A Review of Literature (Nottingham: Department for Education and Skills Publications, 2003); John Hattie, Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, Reprinted (London: Routledge, 2010). For a explanation of the difference between parental involvement and parental engagement, see GEMS Education, “The Impact of Parent Engagement on Learner Success,” 2010.

[31] Reference Re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alberta), [1987] S.C.J. No. 10, at para. 86.

[32] Reference Re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alberta), [1987] S.C.J. No. 10, at para. 142 (emphasis added).

[33] David Schneiderman, “Associational Rights, Religion, and the Charter” in Richard Moon, ed., Law and Religious Pluralism in Canada (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008) 65, at 80.

[34] Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 1, at para. 58.

[35] Ontario (Attorney General) v. Fraser, [2011] 2 S.C.R. 3, at para. 65.

[36] For a more thorough exploration of freedom of association and its broad implications for public policy, see André Schutten, “Recovering community: addressing judicial blind spots on freedom of association” (2020) 98 S.C.L.R. (2d) 399.

[37] Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada v. Northwest Territories (Commissioner), [1990] 2 S.C.R. 367, at para. 76.

[38] Cornelius Van Til, “Antitheses in Education,” in Foundations of Christian Education: Addresses to Christian Teachers (USA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1990), 3–24; Oppewal, A Reformed Christian Perspective on Education, supra note 3 at 26.

[39] Oppewal, A Reformed Christian Perspective on Education, supra note 3 at 55–69.

[40] Deuteronomy 6:7

[41] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada., 2015, 8. See also See Anderson, Amy and Miller, Dallas and Newman, Dwight G., “Canada’s Residential Schools and the Right to Family Integrity” (2018) 41 Dalhousie Law Journal 301.

[42] R. v. Big M Drug Mart, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295 at paras 117 and 94.

[43] Ibid., at para. 95 [emphasis added].

[44] Beverley McLachlin, “Who Owns Our Kids? Education, Health and Religion in a Multicultural Society” in The Cambridge Lectures, 1991, p. 150.

[45] R. v. Jones, [1986] 2 S.C.R. 284 at 298.

[46] B. (R.) v. Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto, [1995] 1 S.C.R. 315 at para. 105.

[47] Chamberlain v. Surrey School District No. 36, [2002] 4 S.C.R. 710 at para. 108 [emphasis added]. Though Gonthier and Bastarache JJ. are writing in dissent, the majority concurs on this point (see para. 3); see also Lagos, Julio Alberto. (2012). “Parental Education Rights in Canada: Canon and Civil Law Approaches to Homeschooling.” Studia canonica 46(2), 401-469.

[48] Gordon Bale, “Law, Politics and the Manitoba Schools Question: Supreme Court and Privy Council,” The Canadian Bar Review 63, no. 3 (September 1, 1985).

[49] See Tonina Simeone, “Bill C-33: First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act,” no. 41 (n.d.): 33. See also Natan Lerner’s discussion on indigenous populations in “Group Rights and Legal Pluralism” in Natan Lerner, Religion, Secular Beliefs and Human Rights, 2nd rev. ed., (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2012), 109-112.

[50] See Anderson, Amy and Miller, Dallas and Newman, Dwight G., “Canada’s Residential Schools and the Right to Family Integrity” (2018) 41 Dalhousie Law Journal 301, where the authors explore how the residential schools system can be understood in terms of a legal wrong involving violations of family integrity. The 19th and early 20th centuries saw increasing state intervention in families generally so as to impose compulsory education. Focus on this international law right of family integrity has potential application to other contexts of interference with Indigenous families and may be helpful in better understanding the need for supporting independent education, particularly along cultural, religious, and philosophical lines.

[51] See, for example, Government of Ontario, “Education Act,” 1990; Government of British Columbia, “School Act,” 1996.

[52] For instance, the stated purposes of education in both the British Columbian (Public) School Act and Independent School Act are virtually identical. See Government of British Columbia, “School Act”; Government of British Columbia, “Independent School Act,” 1996. That said, there are additional deeper, richer goals to pursue in education, particularly from a Christian perspective. The goal of education is (to quote Francis Bacon) “thinking God’s thoughts after him”. The big shift in education in the late 1800s (initiated by philosophers like John Dewey) is a move toward a functionalist approach to education: learn skills and facts to be a productive member of society. While learning facts and skills are important and necessary, they are not sufficient to a well-rounded education for a well-formed human.

[53] For a general yet thorough review of the American literature on educational pluralism, see Andrew D Catt et al., “The 123s of School Choice: What the Research Says about Private School Choice Programs in America,” EdChoice, 2020, 96.

[54] Yolanda Vasquez-Salgado, Patricia M Greenfield, and Rocio Burgos-Cienfuegos, “Academic Achievement and Well-Being Among Latino First-Generation College Students,” Journal of Adolescent Research, n.d., 35; Mariane Hedegaard, “Strategies for Dealing with Conflicts in Value Positions between Home and School: Influences on Ethnic Minority Students’ Development of Motives and Identity,” Culture & Psychology 11, no. 2 (June 1, 2005): 187–205,; Stefan Fries et al., “Conflicting Values and Their Impact on Learning,” European Journal of Psychology of Education 20 (September 1, 2005): 259–73,

[55] Corey A. DeAngelis and Heidi Holmes Erickson, “What Leads to Successful School Choice Programs? A Review of the Theories and Evidence,” Cato Journal 38, no. 1 (2018): 247–63.

[56] Individual schools and teachers undoubtedly strive to serve and educate their students to the very best of their ability, but good intentions and best efforts are not enough; a well-designed educational system is also needed to best educate the next generation of Canadians.

[57] Bennett, The State of the System, supra note 8 at Chapter 7: The “One-Size-Fits-All” Model.

[58] DeAngelis and Erickson, “What Leads to Successful School Choice Programs?”, supra note 57.

[59] See Ping Ching Winnie Chan, “School Choice, Competition, and Public School Performance” (University of Toronto, n.d.); David N. Figlio and Cassandra M.D. Hart, “Competitive Effects of Means-Tested School Vouchers” (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2010); Thomas Rabovsky, “Deconstructing School Choice: Problem Schools or Problem Students?,” Public Administration Review 71, no. 1 (2011): 87–95; Mark Schneider and Jack Buckley, “Charter Schools: Hype or Hope?” Education Finance and Policy, 2006, 16; Lynn Bosetti, Brianna Brown, and Sazid Hasan, “A Primer on Charter Schools” (Fraser Institute, 2015); M. Danish Shakeel, Kaitlin P. Anderson, and Patrick J. Wolf, “The Participant Effects of Private School Vouchers Across the Globe: A Meta-Analytic and Systematic Review” (University of Arkansas, 2016).

[60] Lynn Bosetti, Brianna Brown, and Sazid Hasan, “A Primer on Charter Schools” (Fraser Institute, 2015).

[61] DeAngelis and Erickson, “What Leads to Successful School Choice Programs?”, supra note 57.

[62] Philip S. J. Leonard, “Choice of Ontario High Schools and Its Impact on University Applications,” Education Economics 23, no. 3–4 (June 2015): 433–54.

[63] OECD, “PISA 2015 Key Findings for Canada – OECD,” 2019.

[64] Jane Friesen, Benjamin Harris, and Simon D. Woodcock, “Expanding School Choice Through Open Enrolment: Lessons from British Columbia,” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2015.

[65] See, for example, Pennings, R. et al., A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: Measuring Non-Government School Effects in Service of the Canadian Public Good (Hamilton, ON: Cardus, 2012).

[66] See Harry Anthony Patrinos, “School Choice in the Netherlands,” CESifo DICE Report, 2011.

[67] Patrinos, “School Choice in the Netherlands,” supra note 67 at 55, 58.

[68] William A. Galston, The Practice of Liberal Pluralism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 20.

[69] Bennett, The State of the System, supra note 8 Chapter 7: The “One-Size-Fits-All” Model.


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