Policy/Program Memorandum 108
Date of Issue: January 12, 1989
Effective: Until revoked or modified
Subject: Opening or closing exercises in public elementary and secondary schools
Application: Chairpersons of Boards of Education
Directors of Education of Boards of Education
Principals of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
The decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, dated September 23, 1988, struck down subsection 28 (1) of Regulation 262 concerning religious exercises in public elementary schools. This subsection, and the decision of the Court relating to it, did not apply to schools operated by separate school boards.
The spirit of the decision of the Court of Appeal was essentially that one religion must not be given a position of primacy and that the content of opening or closing exercises must reflect the multicultural realities and traditions of Ontario society.
Subsequent to the Court ruling, an interim policy, dated September 28, 1988, was established, whereby opening or closing exercises were made optional for school boards. In schools where such exercises were to be held, however, "0 Canada" and content that reflected the spirit of the ruling of the Court of Appeal were required.
This interim policy was intended to remain in effect only until policy considerations were finalized and amendments to Regulation 262 were adopted.
Amendments to Regulation 262
A copy of the amendments to Regulation 262 relating to opening or closing exercises accompanies this memorandum. The amendments provide for a new section 4. Subsections 28(1), (2), and (3), and subsections 29(1), (2), and (3), as well as other references to "religious exercises" in sections 28 and 29, are deleted.
The following points summarize the content of the new section 4:
- all public elementary and secondary schools in Ontario must be opened or closed each day with the national anthem. "God Save the Queen" may be included
- the inclusion of any content beyond "0 Canada" in opening or closing exercises is to be optional for public school boards
- where public school boards resolve to include, in the opening or closing exercises in their schools, anything in addition to the content set out in item 1 above, it must be composed of either or both of the following:
- one or more readings that impart social, moral, or spiritual values and that are representative of our multicultural society. Readings may be chosen from both scriptural writings, including prayers, and secular writings
- a period of silence
- parents who object to part or all of the exercises may apply to the principal to have their children exempted. Pupils who are adults may also exercise such a right
When implementing the amendments listed above, school boards should take particular note of the following:
the purposes of opening or closing exercises are patriotic and educational. Such exercises are intended to nurture allegiance to Canada and to contribute to the social, moral, and spiritual development of the pupils
contributing to the social, moral, and spiritual development of pupils includes reinforcing the positive societal values that, in general, Canadians hold and regard as essential to the well-being of our society. These values transcend cultures and faiths, reinforce democratic rights and responsibilities, and are based on a fundamental belief in the worth of all persons
readings selected for opening or closing exercises must fulfil educational purposes
since the social, moral, and spiritual development of Canadians has roots in many religious and philosophical traditions, readings must be drawn from a variety of scriptural and secular sources representative of our multicultural society. Prayers, including the "Lord's Prayer", may be included, but only as readings
the collective recitation of a specific reading from a particular religious tradition can no longer be permitted, as such a practice is not in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- period of Silence
a period of silence is intended to be used for such activities as personal reflection or individual silent prayer
Regulation to amend regulation 262 of revised regulations of Ontario, 1980 made under the Education Act
- section 4 of Regulation 262 of Revised Regulations of Ontario, 1980 is revoked and the following substituted therefor:
opening or Closing Exercises
4.(1) every public elementary and secondary school shall hold opening or closing exercises
(2) opening or closing exercises shall include 0 Canada and may include God Save the Queen
(3) opening or closing exercises may include the following types of readings that impart social, moral or spiritual values and that are representative of Ontario's multicultural society:
- scriptural writings including prayers
- secular writings
(5) no pupil enrolled in a public elementary or secondary school shall be required to take part in any opening or closing exercises where a parent or guardian of the pupil or the pupil, where the pupil is an adult, applies to the principal of the school that the pupil attends for exemption therefrom
- (1) the heading to section 28 of the said Regulation is revoked and the following substituted therefor:
religious education in public schools
(2) subsection 28(1), subsection 28(2), as remade by section 21 of Ontario Regulation 617/81, and subsection 28(3) of the said Regulation are revoked
(3) subsection 28(4) of the said Regulation is amended by striking out "in addition to the time assigned to religious exercises at the opening or closing of a public school" in the first, second and third lines and inserting in lieu thereof "in each public school"
(4) subsection 28(10) of the said Regulation, as remade by section 21 of Ontario Regulation 617/81, is amended by striking out "any religious exercises or" in the first and second lines and by striking out "of the pupil" in the fifth line
(5) subsection 28(11) of the said Regulation, as remade by section 21 of Ontario Regulation 617/81, is amended by striking out "religious exercises are being held or" in the fifth and sixth lines and inserting after "education" in the sixth line "is being"
(6) subsection 28(12) of the said Regulation, as remade by section 21 of Ontario Regulation 617/81, is amended by striking out "religious exercises or" in the fifth and sixth lines
(7) subsection 28(13) of the said Regulation, as remade by section 21 of Ontario Regulation 617/81, is amended by striking but "religious exercises or" where it occurs in the first, second and fourth lines
- (1) the Heading to section 29 of the said Regulation is revoked and the following substituted therefor:
religious education in secondary schools
(2) subsection 29(1), subsection 29(2) as remade by section 22 of Ontario Regulation 617/81, and subsection 29(3) of the said Regulation are revoked
(3) subsection 29(8) of the said Regulation is amended by striking out "taking part in religious exercises or" in the third line and by striking out "exercises or" in the fifth line
(4) subsection 29(9) of the said Regulation is revoked
Terms of reference one-person ministerial inquiry on religious education in Ontario public elementary schools
Whereas section 28(4) of Regulation 262 made under the Education Act requires Ontario public elementary schools to conduct two half-hour periods each week of religious education, and in view of recent interpretations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Minister of Education will appoint a one-person inquiry to:
- review the existing policy with respect to religious education
- identify curriculum options for an appropriate religious education policy for the public elementary schools which responds to the multicultural and multifaith nature of the population of the province
- identify appropriate teacher preparation strategies to support the proposed curriculum options
- examine religious education policies of other Canadian provinces
- examine the 1969 Report of the Committee on Religious Education in the Public Schools of Ontario and reports of other similarly-mandate inquiries from other Canadian provinces
- conduct extensive consultation with interested parties
- make recommendations to the Minister of Education with regard to the adoption of a religious education program policy
The one-person ministerial inquiry shall make-its report and recommendations to the minister on or before January 31, 1990.