Taberite Tamara Miyanaga’s plight of her Catholic faith being at odds with public education system influence, according to the School Act, has received national notoriety in recent weeks.
According to the letter of the law under the School Act, Miyanaga could not run for a Horizon School Division board of trustee position or vote in the trustee election for that matter because Section 44 (4) reads, “where a separate school district is established, an individual residing within the boundaries of the separate school district who is of the same faith as those who established the district, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, is a resident of the separate school district, and is not a resident of the public school district.”
There is indeed a separate school system in the Taber area in Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Separate Regional Division No. 4, but the Education Act that received royal assent late last year is looking to address religious discrimination over the School Act.
But putting constitutional and human rights arguments aside, what the original drafters of the School Act forgot to realize is how impractical the School Act is to enforce to the letter of the law.
You can have every single education election volunteer ask if someone is Catholic before they vote, but what exactly constitutes a Catholic?
Is it if they were baptized Catholic or the number of times they go to Catholic church in a given year?
Even if election volunteers and returning officers ask these questions, short of knowing every single person’s religious activities in a city or town, how will they know if someone is answering truthfully, as it is not like you are required to be a card-carrying member of a religious affiliation.
Given how tight the vote count was among locals who ran for a trustee position in the recent Horizon School Division election, Catholics very well could have had an influence on who shapes public eduction in the region for the next four years, much to the chagrin of the ideals written out in the School Act.
People have every right to not feel at ease at the board of trustees level that Catholics may be influencing the public school system or non-Catholics are influencing the Catholic school system.
But those checks and balances should not be coming in a clause in a School Act that really is impossible to enforce effectively at its core, but rather from the right to democracy itself.
It seems hypocritical in both the public and separate school systems that they would both be willing to accept the school tax money from taxpayers and enrolment money in a student body that has no restrictions of being Catholic or non-Catholic to go to a certain education system, but those families have no right to influence their child’s education at a voting or trustee level at a certain school system if they are of a certain religious affiliation.
Translation: We will take your money, but not your vote, according to the School Act, if you are of a certain religion.
If a family’s children are enrolled in a certain education system, they should be allowed to vote or run as a trustee in that education system, be it public or separate.
If there are worries out there in the public of a Catholic putting too much religious influence to the public school system by running for a trustee position, then get out there and vote for their opposition. The same counts for a Protestant running for a trustee position in a Catholic school system.
The checks and balances do not need to come from some obscure clause in the School Act that very few know about and is near impossible to enforce effectively.
They can come from a person’s right to vote, a right we in our pampered Western civilizations seem to increasingly take for granted given our low voter turnouts.
Votes citizens in oppressed dictatorships have died to fight for the right for.
Hopefully the new Eduction Act will truly do away with such an archaic notion as that found in the School Act and if it does, meets with little to no opposition from religious zealots.
It does not mean a person should not hold their religious faith dear, it is simply that you should not have your right to democracy taken away simply because of your strength in your faith.
Because if you truly want to follow the letter of the law of the old School Act and its intent then you should have to go all in.
If a parent cannot vote or run for public office in a certain school system, then their child should not be allowed to enrol in that system either.
And that is not an option anyone wants to explore.