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28 J.L. & Educ. 431 (1999)
Religious Education in Canadian Public Schools

handle is hein.journals/jle28 and id is 441 raw text is: Religious Education in Canadian
Public Schools
I. Introduction
Prior to 1982, public schools in Canada were free to offer religious prayers,
instruction and exercises. In fact, religious instruction and exercises-primarily
of Christian character-were encouraged: the Committee on Religious Educa-
tion in Public Schools of Ontario I considered the teaching of Christian values
and principles as a legitimate aim of education, and it strongly recommended,
despite admitting that this may amount to religious indoctrination, that Chris-
tian principles of love and honesty must be taught in public schools. 2 The
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1982, 3 which is modeled on the
American Bill of Rights, 4 has changed all that. The Canadian Charter provides
for freedom of conscience and religion. 5 This can be compared with the U.S.
First Amendment which prohibits Congress from making any law respecting
an establishment of religion (the Establishment Clause). 6 This article exam-
ines, for American readers, the legal developments in Canada relating to the
teaching of religion in public schools.
*Professor of Legal Studies and Director of Research, Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada. Also
Adjunct Professor of Business Law, Curtin University Graduate Business School, Perth, Western Australia.
1. The Hope Commission (1950). However, in 1969, the Mackay Committee found that the Christian
doctrines taught in Ontario public schools at that time implied that all the high principles of morals and ethics
were exclusively Christian.
2. See Carol A. Stephenson, Religious Exercises and Instruction in Ontario Schools, 49 Univ. Toronto
Fac. L. Rev. 82-105 (1982); A.N. Khan, Canadian Education: The Legal Position of Religion, XX(l)
Liverpool L. Rev. 137-156 (1998); A.N. Khan, The Legal Context of Canadian Education, 2(l) Australia &
New Zealand J. L. & Educ. 25-58 (1997): W. Foster, ed., EDUCATION IN TRANSITION: LEGAL ISSUES
3. Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B of the Canada Act 1982. This is the Canadian
Bill of Rights.
4. See P. Bender, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United States' Bill of Rights:
A Comparison, 28 McGill L. J. 811(1983); L. E. Weinrib, The Religious Clauses: Reading the Lesson, 8 Sup.
Ct. Rev. 507 (1986).
5. Section 2(a).
6. See R. M. O'Neil, Who says you can't pray, 3 Va. J. Soc. Pol'y. & L. 347 (1996): M. Schreck,
Balancing Rights to Pray at Graduation and Responsibility of Disestablishment, 68 Temp. L. Rev.
1869-1895 (1996); S. Fish, Children and the First Amendment, 29 Conn. L. Rev. 883-892 (1997).

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