New Canadian Media

by Mark A. Cadiz @markacadiz & Shan Qiao in Toronto

Many parents throughout Ontario were up in arms about the new sex education curriculum announced Feb. 23, feeling they were excluded as part of the process.

The new curriculum, which is expected roll out in September, has received harsh criticism from some parents in various communities across Ontario.

“We feel that our role as parents [is] being undermined and this is one of the problems… they are going ahead as if we didn’t exist.” - Firas Marish, Parents Against Ontario Sex-Ed

Firas Marish from Oakville, Ont. is one of the community leaders behind Parents Against Ontario Sex-Ed (PAOSE), a Facebook community group, which launched yesterday. He isn’t holding back with his discontent, and he isn’t alone. The page, in the last 24 hours has already gathered 1200 likes.

“We feel that our role as parents [is] being undermined and this is one of the problems… they are going ahead as if we didn’t exist,” Marish said. “The goal is to protect our kids and we appreciate that move and we support it, but what we are seeing doesn’t serve that goal.”

Marish says with these new changes the government is trying to impose a certain ideology or lifestyle upon his children without his consultation. He, like many other parents, says he believes it is his right to educate his children about sex when he deems it is appropriate. To him, the school’s role is a secondary one on the issue.

He adds that to his knowledge, even school trustees were not informed properly.

What Will Be Taught

Many in the Chinese community agree on sex education being taught, but not as early as Grade 3. Many parents are even more angry when they know content like same-sex relationships will be discussed under the new curriculum. 

Jessica Gao, a mother who has a four-year-old boy and a newborn daughter, appealed to all her parents’ friends on the popular Chinese social app WeChat to sign an online petition and oppose the new Ontario sex ed curriculum. 

“Growing up in a typical reserved Chinese family, I know how important it is to have sex education and safe sex prevention before we enter our adulthood,” said Gao, who currently stays home taking care of her one-month-old daughter. “Lacking of proper sex education in China results so many teenage abortions. However, do I want my children to learn sexual orientation before he even turns 10 years old? I don’t think so. 

“I wish Catholic schools will not use this curriculum. I think Grade 8 is still too young to understand what they feel… discussing sex orientation will confuse them more or less.” - North York mother

Gao, like many other parents, is concerned about when Ontario sex ed curriculum when particular content will be introduced to her children, not to mention, some content will be accompanied with offensive graphics related to masturbation and sexual intimacy. 

Catherine Fang, a North York mother who sent her six-year-old boy to a Catholic school, opposes the new sex ed curriculum for introducing sex orientation in Grade 8. “I wish Catholic schools will not use this curriculum. I think Grade 8 is still too young to understand what they feel… discussing sex orientation will confuse them more or less,” she says. 

Other parents like Markham area resident Jason Huang wonders whether private schools in Ontario will adopt the curriculum or not. “I think it is too aggressive to introduce subjects such as homosexuality. I have no problem to support the rights for homosexual people, but where is the right to not know this at a fairly young age for heterosexual children like mine?” he asks. 

Chinese media, on the other hand, have been covering this sensitive matter without any sensitivity. Words such as “anal sex” and “oral sex” appear frequently on headlines for the story, including in Singtao Daily News and Mingpao Daily News and on Fairchild TV. The coverage focuses mostly on those who oppose. 

“It depends how it will be handled by teachers, because if it’s not handled properly it could be destructive for children.” - Linda Javier, Filipino Centre of Toronto

Mingpao Daily News interviewed several parents from Hong Kong and Mainland China who went to Queen’s Park to oppose on Monday. All of them express their wariness to the new sex ed curriculum as “too much” and “too early”. 

“We believe in one man and one woman marriage. We want the Ontario sex ed curriculum to cover more on this part as well,” Dr. Peter Chen, Spokesperson of Toronto Chinese Catholic Task Force told Fairchild TV at Monday’s rally against the curriculum. 

How It Will Be Taught

Retired junior high teacher and now president of the Filipino Centre of Toronto, Linda Javier, is more concerned about the delivery of the new sex education curriculum, not the material itself.

“It depends how it will be handled by teachers, because if it’s not handled properly it could be destructive for children,” Javier said. “The success will largely depend on the training that the teachers will get, in order to deliver this curriculum in such a way that it’s taught to the children properly.”

She says the intention of the program is helpful considering the advancement in digital technology, however, she doesn’t believe that from now until September will be sufficient time for teachers to be trained accordingly.

“Whatever is included in the new curriculum is intended to be helpful, it wasn’t intended to harm children,” she said. “But there are ramifications, there needs to be constant follow-ups and analysis to see if it is working.”

And this is the problem for Marish, there is no proof that this will actually make a positive difference, “it’s just trial-and-error,” he said.

In Marish’s culture, pre-marital sex is not promoted and he plans to pass those cultural values to his six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

“For my culture we don’t have sexual relationships outside the constitution of marriage, but now all of a sudden it’s being heavily promoted by schools, and not just sex, but different forms of sex… oral sex and anal sex,” Marish said.

This promotion of sex at such a young age does more harm than good and contradicts what he would teach his kids at home Marish continued.

Common Ground

What Marish would like to see is an immediate suspension of the new sex education program and a true inclusive consultation with parents from a variety of backgrounds.

“We want to sit down with educators and people from different backgrounds, different lifestyles and different beliefs and play it fair… I’m sure that we can sit down and come up with something that is satisfactory and protects everybody, we’ve done it before in this country and we can do it again,” he said.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Education
Saturday, 07 February 2015 00:01

Ontario launches updated plan for health care

Ontario is introducing the next phase of transformation to the province’s health care. The new plan – Patients First: Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care – outlines how the province will increase access to better and more coordinated care, and ensure the health care system is sustainable for generations to come.
This action plan focuses on four goals:

Salam Toronto

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Published in Health
Friday, 06 February 2015 09:44

Ontario’s First Black MPP Gets Results

by Yamina Tsalamlal of iPolitics.ca

Fifty-one years ago this week, a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court called segregated schools unconstitutional, one Ontario member of provincial parliament tried to convince his colleagues that black and white students could learn in the same classroom.

The Common Schools Act, passed in Ontario in 1850, created separate Catholic and black school systems. The schools for blacks received poorer funding and were understaffed. It was February 4, 1964, and Canada’s first black MPP, Leonard Braithwaite, used his first speech in the Ontario legislature to criticize the law that allowed for segregated schools in the province. One month later the education minister introduced a bill that repealed this provision.

Leonard spent most of his public life working to provide more opportunities for minorities.

Braithwaite had been exposed to racism growing up in Toronto during the Great Depression. After initially being rejected from the air force based on his race, he finally enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943 and was stationed in Britain.

After the war he earned a commerce degree from the University of Toronto, an MBA from Harvard and a law degree at Osgoode Hall.

He spent most of his public life working to provide more opportunities for minorities. He was a major player in the decision to allow female pages in the legislature for the first time in 1971.

In 1997 Braithwaite became a member of the Order of Canada and later earned the Order of Ontario. He died in 2012.

While the last segregated school in Ontario was closed in 1965, separating students based on religion or race continues to be discussed. In Ontario for example, Catholic schools are still publicly funded.

In 2008, the Toronto school board approved the first africentric elementary school. Advocates argued that a more culturally relevant approach to education would fill the graduation gap between black and white students in Toronto.

In 2012 a similar program was introduced at Winston Churchill Collegiate in Toronto. Named after the trailblazer, the Leonard Braithwaite Program offers grade nine and ten students an “africentric” approach to learning. An example of the approach was to use coral reefs of the Caribbean — where many students have roots — as the subject matter in a science class instead of the usual focus on Canadian bio-systems. The approach continues to grow with more schools in the city looking to adopt the program.


Re-published with permission.

Published in Top Stories

Indian-born Dr. Dhun Noria, the Scarborough Hospital’s chief of laboratory medicine and medical director of laboratories, was presented with the Order of Ontario by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell, at a ceremony, Feb. 3.

Dr. Noria was recognized with this prestigious honour due to her unwavering commitment and steadfast dedication to the hospital, Scarborough and the Ontario medical community.

Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Health
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 10:32

The Case of Canada’s Imaginary Muslims

by iPolitics.ca

The number of Muslims in Canada is not nearly what Canadians imagine it to be.

In the aftermath of this month’s terrorist attacks in France, last week The Economist reviewed the gap between the imagined and real sizes of Muslim populations in European countries. They found Europeans wildly overestimate the proportion of their populations that are Muslims. So what’s the Canadian case?

Whether born of xenophobic angst or pluralist exuberance, the average figure given by Canadians when asked for Muslims’ share of the general population is 20 per cent, according to a survey conducted last autumn by Ipsos Reid (with a margin of error of 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20). This imagined figure exceeds the actual one — 3.2 per cent — sixfold.

Canada … does not have any major political constituency devoted to the mistrust or hatred of religious minorities. In fact, all of the major political parties are quite explicitly committed to the inclusion and tolerance of minority groups.

“People who hold mythical ideas of Muslims in the West — including the one which holds that they’re expanding at an exponential pace and are poised to become a majority — (are not) necessarily racists or bigots or xenophobes,” says Doug Saunders, author of The Myth of the Muslim Tide. Instead, they are “often ordinary Canadians confused by the newcomers around them” and easily swayed by media narratives of a “large and fast-growing population that is not loyal to the countries it inhabits or refuses to integrate.”

Ontario, the province with the highest average guess in the Ipsos Reid survey — over 25 per cent — has the highest actual percentage of Muslims, but even this is just 4.6 per cent.

The greatest relative overestimation is in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where the combined average guess — inflated perhaps by the prairies’ emerging status as a preferred destination for immigrants, or maybe just too much Little Mosque on the Prairie — is 20 per cent, but in the 2011 census Muslims accounted for just one per cent of the population in both provinces.

And Quebec, wrought last year by debate over a proposed Charter of Values, spurred in large part by the presumed cultural threat of a ‘Muslim tide’, is just 3.1 per cent Muslim, although the average Quebecer thinks the figure to be above 17 per cent.

These popular overestimations are unlikely to affect Canadian federal politics in the foreseeable future, according to Saunders, as “Canada … does not have any major political constituency devoted to the mistrust or hatred of religious minorities. In fact, all of the major political parties are quite explicitly committed to the inclusion and tolerance of minority groups.”

“All the major parties want to get Canadians of immigrant descent to vote for them and to become loyal adherents to the party. The Conservatives have put a lot of effort into becoming the party of diversity; Harper and Kenney spend a lot of time at Sikh temples and Muslim gatherings.”

The gap between actual Muslim Canadians and those who exist only in the public imagination is over 5.5 million people — roughly equal the population of Toronto. Fears of Islam’s demographic triumph are greatly exaggerated.


Re-published with permission and under arrangement with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Top Stories

Che Marville, the Oakville New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in this year’s provincial elections, has been elected the Ontario NDP’s vice president.

The Share News

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Published in Politics
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 11:22

Research Watch: Studies Paint Depressing Picture

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriyain Toronto

It may not be time for report cards in school just yet, but when it comes to research, several annual report cards are in. In this edition of Research Watch we take a look at three recently released reports that speak to how immigrants and visible minorities are faring in various aspects of Canadian life from child poverty to employment in the public sector to corporate boards. The overall grade in each instance: F.


Immigrant children getting left behind

Not having lunch at school. Not being able to participate in extracurricular activities. Being made fun of for being on welfare. When asked what poverty feels like, these were some of the responses that some of Ontario’s children provided, in a recently released report administered by Campaign 2000 and Family Services Toronto. And for 50 per cent of the province’s children born to immigrants this feeling is part of daily life, states the report. This is in comparison to the 20 per cent of children overall that live in poverty across Ontario.

The report, which used Statistics Canada data from 2012 income tax returns, brings attention to not only this startling information, but to the fact that in 1989 the federal government put forth a strategic plan to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. Twenty-five years later, the problem has only increased, particularly for children of new immigrants, with racialized and First Nations children next in line.

“There’s plenty the government could do to end poverty, but I don’t understand why they aren’t doing that,” an anonymous Ontario grade school student says in the report. And the words hold much weight. Essentially, everything the government could, and should, be doing is outlined in the report. Perhaps the most insightful though: “Eradicating child poverty in Ontario requires addressing and dismantling long-standing systemic inequities.” Without this key element, no matter how many tax benefits or increases to social assistance are made (all of which was cited as part of 1989’s plan, then again in 2008 and again in 2014), real change will not be brought about. The various levels of government must address the root causes of this poverty, versus placing bandage solutions on the complex issue. 

Along these lines, the report calls on the government to, for example, legislate Employment Equity to remedy discrimination in Canadian workplaces, repeal the three month waiting period for immigrants to receive Ontario Health Insurance coverage, create equity and anti-racism boards to address inequities and take a proactive approach to enforcing employment standards to provide equal protection for people employed under the temporary foreign worker program. These specific recommendations speak to some of the unique challenges facing individuals of immigrant and racialized backgrounds and are in addition to more blanket proposed solutions of raising minimum wage to $15 an hour and ending the deduction of child support and the Ontario Child Benefit from social assistance funds.

“There’s plenty the government could do to end poverty, but I don’t understand why they aren’t doing that,” an anonymous Ontario grade school student says in the report.

Many mitigating factors point out that this issue is only going to get worse if those in power don’t sit up, take notice, and most importantly, take action. The Ontario job market is bleak. Manufacturing jobs, once a major employer for women, racialized and recent immigrant populations, make up only 11 per cent of the market now, in comparison to a previous 18 per cent. Recent legislation, Bill C-583, if passed, may limit access to social assistance for refugee claimants. The generation born since 1989, when the vow of eliminating child poverty was made, is up against more unemployment than ever before, coupled with rising tuition, cost of living and limited affordable housing. Add to that mix being a young person who is of colour, new to the country, suffers from mental health challenges or is homeless and the odds only stack higher. All the while, the gap between the highest and lowest income families continues to widen.

What does all this mean? It means that the time is now for change. However, the most telling aspect of the report may also be the most discouraging. In 2008, a commitment was made to develop tailored solutions to the unique needs of women, racialized communities, newcomers, people with disabilities, and Aboriginal peoples, among others at higher risk of poverty. As of November 2014, while some investments for Aboriginal children and those with disabilities have been made, and some employment programs for newcomers have been implemented, no specific solutions have been outlined or reported, for racialized communities, nor has any commitment to tracking impact in this community been made. 

Having set a new goal in 2008, to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent in five years, and still fallen short – as of 2013 the rate had declined just over nine per cent – it is clear the work is far from over, and attention must be paid to Ontario’s most marginalized.

Eradicating child poverty in Ontario requires addressing and dismantling long-standing systemic inequities.

Skilled immigrants missing in civil servant jobs  

It’s somewhat ironic. Multiculturalism and diversity are often promoted as two of Canada’s most redeeming qualities. But within its own three levels of government there is a gap in employment diversity that needs to be addressed says a recent study released by ALLIES (a Maytree affiliated organization). That gap is one of skilled immigrants – noticeably underrepresented in public sector jobs. Titled Government as Employer of Skilled Immigrants, the study aims to encourage government to become leaders in the area of hiring immigrants, while providing context to the challenges and conditions at play within the current work force. This isn’t just of utmost importance because the public sector represents a huge job market – the government currently employs 3.6 million people at its varying levels – but authors Sarah Wayland and Dan Sheffield write that it is also worth paying attention to because the government holds great influence over the rest of the market. Whether public or private, if other employers see the government taking greater strides to purposely hire skilled immigrants, they just may follow suit.

“By bringing in fresh perspectives whether from youth or immigrants or others, there is labour force advantage to be gained,” said Susan Brown, an employee of City of Toronto, in the report. “Moreover with an aging workforce, governments need new employees, even if overall numbers continue to decline. Prioritizing immigrants into the future gives us a great opportunity to diversify our workforce and address imbalances.”

This only makes sense for a country that has made a commitment to increasing focus on immigrants as skilled workers – in fact, it is expected that over the next 10 years, close to 100,000 recent immigrants will be added to the labour market annually. Not only will these individuals add to the diversity of the government bodies, bringing with them international perspectives and connections, but they also bring an element of lived experience which is beneficial in serving the immigrant population, which generally represents 20 per cent (in some areas much higher) of Canadian society.

The report cites several barriers that stand in the way of recent immigrants gaining employment with the government (the rates increase the longer individuals are in Canada), including lack of supports in smaller communities, bilingual and citizenship qualification criteria, seniority and a lack of data focused on the immigrant experience in the application, interview, hiring and retention stages of employment.

“By bringing in fresh perspectives whether from youth or immigrants or others, there is labour force advantage to be gained,” said Susan Brown, an employee of City of Toronto, in the report.

Some organizations are more intentional with efforts to hire immigrants, than others, according to the report. Leading the pack is the City of Ottawa, recognized as one of the Best Diversity Employers in Canada in 2013, which has an active plan in the works to include immigrants in its organization as an effort to better reflect the community it serves. Using a strategy coined the Equity and Inclusion Lens since 2009, the City of Ottawa is proactively taking steps such as providing training to city councillors and staff, to remove systemic barriers and promote inclusion internally.

As it stands overall, while a shift in hiring culture is being cultivated in some areas across the country, immigrants are half as likely as their Canadian-born counterparts to land a job in public administration, but far more likely than Canadian-born residents to be working in manufacturing, accommodation and food service. In order for this to change, the report indicates it is crucial for a government organization to embed diversity into its day-to-day culture instead of having it as an “add-on”. 

Minorities barely visible on corporate boards

The country’s corporate boards are in need of some more diversity – visible diversity that is. It seems that while there have been positive increases in the area of women sitting on corporate boards, visible minority representation is at an all-time low. This is according to The Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC) annual report card, released this month.

In 2010, when the council was established, the percentage of visible minorities sitting on the boards of the companies studied, which range in industry from Finance and Insurance, Utilities and Retail/Trade to Manufacturing and Mining/Oil/Gas, was just over five. This year, visible minorities clocked in at less than half of that – two per cent.

Part of the underlying problem – when board members retire or step down, the remaining members tend to look to personal circles to fill the positions, and well, if visible minorities, Aboriginal people or people with disabilities aren’t in their circles, they lose out.

While the report indicates that the majority of directors surveyed believed diversity was important on boards, it also stated that many groups feel they are already diverse, and only a quarter of the boards in most industries have diversity policies in place. This, of course, is indicative of a broad definition of diversity. It seems the boards studied have substantial diversity in areas of expertise and education, moderate levels of diversity in areas of age, gender and geographic location, but are significantly lacking in areas of diversity relating to visible minority and Aboriginal populations and those with disabilities. 

Part of the underlying problem – when board members retire or step down, the remaining members tend to look to personal circles to fill the positions, and well, if visible minorities, Aboriginal people or people with disabilities aren’t in their circles, they lose out. The CBDC has put together a database, Diversity 50, to help counter this. The database, which now has 150 individuals listed, includes the names and faces of eligible board members. Come this time next year, we will see if the database effectively helps more visible minorities into those board seats, or not.


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories

by Mohsin Abbas (@MohsinAbbasEh)

The majority of Pakistani candidates running for various offices in the recent Ontario municipal elections continued their losing streak.

Only two Pakistani candidates emerged victorious in the polls, whereas hundreds of others did literally nothing but blabber and distribute their pamphlets all over the place.

Most of these candidates suffered from a glaring deficiency in English language skills and in their knowledge of the Canadian system. Many seemed utterly indifferent towards the problems in their constituencies, and had no recourse but to play up already familiar topics to scrape up a handful of votes.

Not only did they plan their election campaigns poorly, but several of them were also involved in personal conflicts with other Pakistani candidates.

In many areas, several Pakistanis filed their nomination papers from a single constituency, effectively dividing the Pakistani vote several times.

It is fair to say, then, they had it coming.

Peoples' representatives

Pakistani candidates running for office in Canada are no more an unprecedented feat. Every four years, a large number of Pakistanis — never seen before at any community gathering — show up from nowhere, and portray themselves as ‘peoples’ representative’.

Many a candidate get their pamphlets printed in Pakistan as early as a year before the elections, and transport them to Canada with their luggage. When these flyers are distributed among people, the poor chaps are clueless about the candidate, because these candidates neither engage, nor serve the community, and hence remain unknown to a large number of people.

Indian Canadians also compete in the elections, but in contrast to Pakistanis, their success ratio is higher as they make efforts to engage with their community. On the other hand, Pakistani candidates are confined only to photo sessions for local Urdu newspapers, association with Pakistani political parties, and seeking votes on the basis of caste and clan.

Pre-poll surveys this year showed that the victory of Pakistani candidates was highly unlikely, as the results later proved. The causes for this are not too hard to comprehend.

Election manifesto

I asked one Pakistani candidate, “What is your manifesto?” only to be hear this shameless reply: “Umm … I am jobless nowadays … I’ve heard that the councillors have handsome remuneration, so I am trying my luck there …”

Every four years, a large number of Pakistanis — never seen before at any community gathering — show up from nowhere, and portray themselves as ‘peoples’ representatives’.

These candidates include a Pakistani grocery store owner of my area as well. The lies on his website were traced and duly rebuked by his Canadian rivals – what a defamation of our country.

There was another candidate, a self-proclaimed business tycoon from Sialkot, Pakistan. Having no experience of business, literature and politics, this man has made a mockery of Pakistan overseas.

This business tycoon, named Riazuddin, is also known as Malik Riaz of Mississauga.

The election flyer of this candidate was printed in Pakistan. The flyer reads that Riazuddin has been member of chambers of commerce in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Australia, Sweden, France and the Netherlands, and has served as vice president at Chamber of Commerce in Sialkot, Pakistan.


Mohsin Abbas is an award-winning Pakistani-Canadian journalist, filmmaker and press freedom activist. He is the editor of Diversity Reporter, a multilingual weekly newspaper for newcomers and immigrants in Canada.

This post was republished with permission from Diversity Reporter.
Published in Commentary
Saturday, 08 November 2014 09:10

Hunter: From factory floor to legislative floor

This profile is one of a periodic series on powerful and inspirational women. By Jasminee Sahoye

She knew as a teenager that she had the potential to be a leader and not just an ordinary leader but someone who would run for office and take on challenges.

Ontario’s Associate Minister of Finance, responsible for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan and the MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood, Mitzie Hunter told a group of women in Brampton at a Professional Women’s Forum recently that her career path to run for office was on a list of things she wanted to do.

The Caribbean Camera

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Published in Politics
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 11:16

Why Ranking Schools May Not be Such a Smart Idea

by Charles Ungerleider in Vancouver

The Fraser Institute has added Ontario’s schools to a growing list of school rankings in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.  The Fraser Institute justifies its ranking as an aid to parental choice of schools. According to the Institute, “Where parents can choose among several schools for their children, the Report Card provides a valuable tool for making a decision. Because it makes comparisons easy, it alerts parents to those nearby schools that appear to have more effective academic programs.” 

The Fraser Institute believes that parents will seek to maximize educational benefits for their children when choosing the schools their children attend, but the research indicates that parents choose schools on other grounds.  On what basis do the parents who choose schools select the schools that their children attend?  Do the children of the parents who make a choice of schools benefit academically? If they benefit, by how much do they gain in achievement?  What are the consequences for the children of parents who do not choose, and for the schools from which some children have departed?

Like all parents, immigrant parents are concerned about the educational welfare of their children. They have often made great sacrifices in migrating to a new and unfamiliar country. Less familiar with the schools in their new community, these parents often ask me about the Fraser Institute rankings. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from the research about how parents use rankings to select schools for their children. 

Lesson 1: Parent decisions are not typically based on the evidence available.

Beginning in 1981, Scotland gave parents the right to request that their children attend a school outside the school attendance areas to which they had previously been assigned. The legislation required that educational bodies responsible for schools in their region publish brochures providing information about each school (including examination results), required that they take into account parental requests, and limited the grounds for refusing a parent’s request to send their child to the school. This experiment in school choice was the subject of considerable research.

One group of researchers interviewed more than six hundred parents who chose the school their children attended in three Educational Authorities in Scotland. Rather than seek the academically best school for their children, parent choices were fuelled by a desire to avoid the school in the area to which they had been previously assigned. Most parents were more apt to consider a school’s general reputation and how close it was to their home than they were educational factors such as examination results. In other words, they based their decisions on hearsay and convenience rather than evidence.

Those who made a choice were better educated and better off than those who did not choose the schools their children attended. Moreover, those parents tended to choose the older, previously more selective schools whose pupils were of more advantaged backgrounds and had higher academic achievement.

Lesson 2: Parents do not always make the best choices for their offspring.

When choosing among the previously more selective schools, parents were unable to differentiate those that were more or less effective. Instead, they choose schools whose socio-­economic compositions and examination results were marginally higher than the schools to which their children had been previously assigned. They did not necessarily choose schools that would maximize their children’s educational advantage. They inferred that, because children with higher examination scores attended the schools they selected for their children, that the school had caused the higher examination scores.

While schools obviously exert an influence on student achievement, they only account for approximately 30% of the difference in student achievement. The remaining 70% of the difference in student achievement is due to factors over which schools have no control. The many factors outside of school that influence student achievement include: parental education, educational aspirations and expectations, family income and living conditions, and community economic makeup.

Canada takes prides in being a multi-ethnic society that relies upon immigration and is accepting of immigrants

Despite having a wide range of schools from which to choose, more than 60 per cent of the parents requesting a placement considered only one alternative to the school to which their children had been assigned. Advantaged parents paid more attention to the information provided by teachers and school administrators and to direct observations made from their visits to the school than did less advantaged parents. Less advantaged parents were more concerned about the reputation and the disciplinary climate of schools.

Lesson 3: Parent choice has only a small impact on their child’s school achievement.

The school choice literature indicates that children whose parents choose their school will make only a modest gain in achievement: on average three to four percentage points. It is not particularly surprising that choice appears not to improve performance very much. If parents do not choose schools to maximize educational advantages for their children, such advantages are not likely to occur.

Lesson 4:  Parental choice leads to increasing economic and ethnic-­group segregation.

Economically advantaged families have resources such as time and transportation that enable them to choose, so they are more apt to do so. And the schools they are likely to choose are those with student bodies from families much like their own. As a consequence, choice produces higher concentrations of children from advantaged backgrounds in some schools and increasing concentrations of less advantaged students in the schools from which the more advantaged children have departed.

Doug Willms at the University of New Brunswick points out that, for poor students living in poor communities, there is a double disadvantage. There is the dis­advantage that comes from their own poverty and the additional disadvantage from the influence of their peers who are also poor. When choice removes the most able students from the peer group, the similarities among the remaining students increase. When most of the students who are left behind live in poor circumstances, their segregation amplifies and reinforces their difficulties.

Lesson 5: Inclusive schools – schools that have a healthy mix of children from the local neighbourhood – enjoy a balance of neighbourhood political support.

Charter schools are sometimes seen by parents as a way to maximize educational outcomes for their offspring, though the evidence suggests that this is not the case. Charter school student bodies are often more homogeneous than the public schools from which the charter students were drawn, resulting in ethno-cultural and/or socio-economic segregation.

In 1999, researchers studied the ethnic composition of fifty-­five urban and fifty-­seven rural Arizona charter schools. They found that nearly half of the charter schools exhibited evidence of substantial ethnic separation “large enough and consistent enough to warrant concern among education policymakers.” They observed that students who attend schools segregated along ethnic lines do not get the benefits of integration with students of a rich variety of backgrounds.  

They found that nearly half of the charter schools exhibited evidence of substantial ethnic separation “large enough and consistent enough to warrant concern among education policymakers.”

“Ethnic and class-­based separation,” the researchers argue, “polarizes the political interests which look out for neighbourhood schools, which results in further disparities in resources, quality of teachers, number of supportive parents, and the like. Schools without political support struggle and the students suffer.”

What seems clear from the evidence is that, while the achievement gains from school choice are modest, school choice has the capacity to fragment Canadians, reduce the influence that Canadian schools exert on the transmission of common values, and diminish social cohesion. Canada takes prides in being a multi-ethnic society that relies upon immigration and is accepting of immigrants. It can hardly afford practices that have, in other contexts, polarized and segregated communities along economic and socio-cultural lines. We need to take a closer look at the motivation of the Fraser Institute in fuelling parental anxieties through emphasizing differences among schools.


Charles Ungerleider, a Professor Emeritus of Educational Studies at The University of British Columbia, is Managing Partner of Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group, LLP, a partnership of professionals with experience in applied research, policy analysis and evaluation in a variety of domains, including K-12 and post-secondary education, social services, justice, and health. He has served as Deputy Minister of Education in British Columbia, Director of Research and Knowledge Mobilization at the Canadian Council on Learning, and Associate Dean (Teacher Education) at The University of British Columbia. 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

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Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
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Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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