Landslide At Election. 85 PER CENT. MAJORITY, NOW 17 PER CENT. MINORITY.
(By Henry Somerville) Toronto, Ontario.

A glorious victory for Catholics, who had campaigned on behalf of their schools, was the result of the recent election to the Provincial Legislature.

Since the beginnings of the public educational system in Ontario nearly a century ago . Catholics have had the right to separate -schools." The Catholic ratepayers of the prescribed areas have elected a Separate School Board while the other people have elected the Public School Board.

The Separate School Board has built the Catholic schools and administered them in accordance with the regulations of the Department of Education. The school rates paid by Catholics have been allotted to the Separate School Board. We have had, in effect, two sets of public schools, Catholic and Protestant.

So far, so good. But Catholics have serious grievances. For one thing, it has been ruled that Separate schools may only be elementary schools, not secondary. Therefore Catholics, when they have secondary schools, pay for "them entirely out of their own pockets while paying taxes at the same time for the undenominational public secondary schools.

Another grievance is that through a defect in the law Separate Schools do not get anything approaching a fair share of rates paid by joint stock companies and other corporations on their property.

There are parts of Ontario where the children are nearly all Catholics, where practically all the labour employed is Catholic, yet all the school taxes paid "by the joint stock companies of the district go to non-Catholic schools because the companies are not in a position to state the proportion of Catholics among their shareholders.

Ontario is a province where there is an immense amount of "public ownership," what in England would be called municipalisation and nationalisation. Railways, tramways, electricity undertakings, etc,pay all their schools rates to the Public Schools, not a penny to the Separate Schools. Yet Catholics are one-fifth the population of Ontario; their schools should accordingly get one fifth of the school taxes paid by these ""publicly-owned" enterprises.


For more than 20 years Catholics have been pacifically seeking to have their grievances redressed. The growth of jcint stock companies and other corporations was at such a pace that as much Catholic money was going to Public Schools as was paid to Separate Schools. Though the system in Ontario is so different from that of England the result "has been the same: Catholics carry a double school burden; they have to pay for non-Catholic schools as well as their own.

The Catholic spokesman to successive Governments was Archbishop McNeil, of Toronto, who died as recently as May 25, He was as great a man as any in Canada and enjoyed the admiration of non-Catholics to an extraordinary degree. But after 20 years of peaceful effort he had to confess he " got nowhere." He then, with the other Bishops in Ontario, handed over to the Catholic laity the job of influencing the Government.

Two years ago was formed the Catholic Taxpayers' Association. Eighteen months ago it sent a deputation to the Ontario Government, presenting the " case" for remedial legislation in favour of Catholic schools. The Government in power had an enormous majority —85 seats out of 100. It promised to consider the " case " and give an answer thereto. The Catholic Taxpayers' Association proceeded methodically with its work of educating the people, non- Catholic as well as Catholics, in the merits of the Catholic claims.

The Government maintained an ambiguous attitude until the very day the Legislature was dissolved on Holy Thursday last. It then said it would submit questions on Catholic claims to the Privy Council in London. This was the merest political side-stepping. The Privy Council can only declare what is the existing law; it cannot provide the new legislation which Catholics require.

The question now was what action Catholics would take in view of the impending election. Party politics, in Ontario are fierce. The spoils system flourishes and makes partisanship more rancorous. There are as many difficulties in Ontario as in any other part of the world in getting Catholics united politically.

Moreover there was one great difficulty peculiar to Ontario. This province is traditionally supposed to be another Ulster, profoundly anti-Catholic. It was the tradition of the Catholic minority that it must never do anything that would give an excuse for the raising of Protestant cries. The Orange Lodges are numerous and active and are only too anxious for an opportunity of making mischief. In this situation there were not wanting counsellors who would not have Catholics take any aggressive action in the election.

The leader of the Catholic Taxpayers' Association, Mr. Martin Quinn, took another view. He sent a letter to all the parish chairmen urging that Catholic votes should be cast against the Government. What everybody feared then happened. The Orange Press got hold of the letter and published it in facsimile and the cry went forth that a Catholic plot had been discovered. The supreme issue of the election, it was alleged, was now whether the Catholic minority by its organisation was to be permitted to make and unmake Governments?

The appeal to bigotry received no response. The Government Press as a whole refused to follow the Orange lead though the Premier himself did so. 1 do not know why Ontario Protestantism did not blaze up, but one theory, which is as good as any other, is that the Ontario Protestant is not the bigot that the Catholic traditionally believed him to be.

Mention must also be made of the Catholic Press. It had educated Catholics in the school question, it had shaken them from apathy, roused them from despair, and given them a definite lead for election day. One Ontario Catholic paper devoted the whole of its front . page on the eve of the election to the school question and without any qualification urged Catholics to vote against the Government that had refused to meet their just demands.

- Malaya Catholic Leader, Saturday, 5th January, 1935 (1935.pdf pp5)

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter