Supreme Court dismisses parents' appeal against mandatory attendance
CBC News Posted: Feb 17, 2012 4:59 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 17, 2012 10:14 AM ET
Canada's top court on Friday rejected an appeal from parents in Quebec who sought the right to keep their children out of an ethics and religious culture program taught in the province's schools.
The program, which was introduced in 2008 to elementary and high schools by the provincial Education Ministry, replaced religion classes with a curriculum covering all major faiths found in Quebec culture, including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and aboriginal beliefs.
"Unless it can be found that any exposure of children to realities that differ from those in their family environment is unacceptable in light of the constitutional or quasi-constitutional protection conferred on freedom of religion, [the court] cannot conclude that the appellants have been able to prove their case," the Supreme Court of Canada said in its ruling.
In 2009, Quebec's Superior Court rejected a request from two Drummondville parents who wanted to to keep their children out of the program.
After their appeal was denied in Quebec in 2010, the parents took it to the Supreme Court, which heard their case in May 2011.
When the program became mandatory in Quebec schools in May 2008, the appellants, who cannot be named under a court-ordered publication ban, had one child in elementary school and another in secondary school.
The parents wrote to the two schools to request that their children be exempted.
They claimed their children would suffer serious harm from contact with a series of beliefs that were mostly incompatible with those of the family,
The school board refused to grant the exemption, responding as other boards had to similar requests. The Quebec minister of education publicly stated that there would be no exemptions.