The right to equal treatment on the basis of religion is enshrined in the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international covenants such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Ontario Human Rights Commission recognizes that public funding of a Catholic school system, as a result of the requirement in the Canadian Constitution, results in differential treatment for those of other religions. Furthermore, the Commission respects the desire of parents to promote the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
While not referring to any existing private schools, Chief Commissioner Keith C. Norton has publicly expressed concerns regarding the Ontario government’s proposed tax credit for parents who send their children to private schools. The Commissioner’s main concern is that a financial incentive is being offered which might be expected to lead to a proliferation of small independent schools without sufficient regulation to ensure that the curriculum and values that are taught will be consistent with public policy in Ontario as expressed in the Ontario Human Rights Code (the "Code"). Unlike the public school system, including the publicly funded Catholic system, which is highly regulated, at present private schools operate with a high degree of autonomy and little government supervision.
The Code states that it is public policy in Ontario to recognize the dignity and worth of every person and that its goal is the creation of a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person in Ontario. This is achieved through protecting Ontarians from discrimination on the basis of sixteen (16) grounds and also by promoting an understanding and acceptance of all persons. Similarly, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes that education shall strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and is intended to promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all persons.
For this reason, Mr. Norton has also noted the benefits of children being exposed to diversity in their schooling so that they can learn to understand and respect one another and their differences.