Multi-Faith Coalition and Families of Disabled Children Sue the McGuinty Government

    TORONTO, June 26 /CNW/ - The Multi-Faith Coalition (MFC) for Equal
Funding of Faith-Based Schools and eight families of disabled children
announced today the filing of a major lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court,
against the McGuinty government.
    In 2000, Ontario's Ministry of Health began to provide funding to assist
students in faith-based schools who required speech therapy, nursing services,
occupational therapy or physiotherapy. However, the Ontario government
arbitrarily decided that funding for blind, deaf, and/or children with
learning disabilities would not be available since it comes from Ontario's
Ministry of Education. As a result, of the sum of $14.4 million dollars set
aside by the McGuinty government each fiscal year for disabled students in all
of Ontario's faith-based schools, the Government spends only $4.5 million -
notwithstanding the unmet special needs of these children.
    The lawsuit, filed as a "test case" on behalf of families of blind, deaf
and learning disabled children enrolled in Ontario's faith-based schools,
asserts that: (1) Once Ontario decided a few years ago to begin providing
funding to some disabled children in faith schools, it is discriminatory to
refuse funding to blind, deaf and learning disabled students in those same
schools; and (2) In those circumstances, the decision by the McGuinty
government to fund the special needs of blind, deaf, and learning disabled
students in the public schools and Catholic schools, but not in any other
faith-based schools, is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights.
    Tebat Kadhem, a 10 year old legally blind girl who attends an Islamic
school in Richmond Hill, Ontario in a classroom with non-disabled children,
and receives no Government funded assistance at all, stated: "I don't
understand why I can't get the help I need in my school just because my school
is an Islamic school and not catholic or a public school. I thought that in
Ontario people are supposed to be treaty fairly and equally."
    Brian Shell, a leading Toronto-based human rights counsel who is
representing the eight families affected directly by this test case, stated:
"The time has come for Ontario to recognize that the discriminatory practices
affecting these disabled children must stop. No one should be required to
abandon their faith-based school because of a disability. No one should be
denied rights afforded to others because they have decided to pursue religious
conviction in a faith-based school. In our multi-cultural society, modern
Ontario must recognize its obligations to all children with disabilities and
provide the necessary in-school services for them, whatever school they
attend, whether faith-based or not. It is regrettable that it is necessary to
bring this matter before the Courts. Responsible politicians should address
these matters without any further procrastination."

    The MFC, founded in 2002, consists of representation from Armenian
Orthodox Schools, Coptic Orthodox Schools, Evangelical Christian Schools,
Greek Orthodox Day School, Hindu School, Islamic Schools, Sikh (Khalsa)
School, Ontario Association of Jewish Day Schools, Seventh Day Adventist
Schools, and Mennonite Schools who are currently victims of religious
discrimination in the funding of education in Ontario.

For further information:

For further information: Shell Lawyers - Brian Shell, (416) 539-0226 ext
201; or Melissa Atkins (416) 539-0226 ext 202; or Allan Kaufman, Legal Counsel
to MFC (416) 364-1068

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