Outside Activities

AuthorAlan Borovoy
chapter six
Outside Activities
At the Labour Committee, it was always permissible for staff
members like me to become involved in outside activities. My Western
counterpart, David Orlikow, for example, simultaneously served as an
MP for the riding of Winnipeg North. And frequently I sat on concilia-
tion and arbitration boards as a union nominee. The constraint I always
observed was that such activities should create no conf‌lict either with
the objectives of or the time commitment required by the Labour
One such outside activity began before I started with the Labour
Committee. In February 1959, the CJC hired me, on a part-time basis,
to work for the elimination of the religious education program that was
then mandated in the public schools of Ontario.
First introduced by the George Drew Conservative government in
1944, this Ontario law required two half-hour periods a week of Protest-
ant Christian instruction. (Since Confederation, the Roman Catholics
have been entitled to their own schools, publicly f‌inanced.) This pro-
gram should not be confused with the traditional religious exercises
featured in the public schools (the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and
selected Bible readings without comment).
The program at issue here involved full-scale instruction (it’s fair
to call it, indoctrination). Note that, in one of the early outlines for the
course, there appeared the following admonition: “Jesus Christ is more
“at the barricades”
than a hero to be admired; He is the Revelation of God in history.”1 Un-
doubtedly, such statements represent the sacred beliefs of many people.
Early on, however, I argued that the faith of some (or even, most) should
not be taught as fact for all. Controversial doctrines of faith, such as the
divinity of Jesus, are simply not incontrovertible matters of fact, such
as 2 + 2 = 4 and c-a-t spells cat. Public tax-supported schools have no
business teaching them as though they were all philosophically and
pedagogically of the same vintage. An exacerbating factor in this regard
is that generally youngsters of the designated ages, regardless of their
faith, are required to attend the public schools. The notion of compul-
sory indoctrination in a faith alien to one’s home and family is repug-
nant to democratic principles.
Invariably, someone would ask: What’s wrong with learning about
any of the great religions in our society? And just as invariably, I would
reply, “Nothing.” Indeed, as I would often add, it’s not possible to under-
stand much of history or literature without an adequate knowledge of
certain religious perspectives. But this religious education program was
not designed to promote knowledge about Protestant Christianity or
any other religious ideology. It was designed to promote a belief in a
particular religious ideology, namely Protestant Christianity. And that
was always objectionable.
If the philosophical arguments were not enough, there were always
the off‌icial guidebooks and even the behaviour of some of the off‌icial
lecturers. In describing the circumstances surrounding the crucif‌ixion,
one of the guidebooks made an insensitive reference to “these Jewish
rulers bent on murder.” In a suburban Toronto classroom, a Protestant
minister (authorized as a teacher of religion) asked the members of an
elementary school class to indicate whether they had been to Sunday
School on the previous Sunday. Everyone, except one Jewish boy, indi-
cated that they had indeed attended Sunday School. With that lone boy
standing by himself, the minister proceeded to lecture the class on the
importance of going to Sunday School.
Whenever Jewish or other minority group members complained
about this program, they would be reminded that they could always
exempt their kids from the classes. That right, of course, was a matter
of law. But to f‌launt the right of exemption at those people simply com-
pounded the insensitivity that enveloped the whole process. After all,

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