Forced Education in Homosexuality and Evolution Leads to Exodus of Mennonites from Quebec
By John-Henry Westen and Elizabeth O'Brien
MONTREAL, August 16, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A community of a dozen Mennonite families in Quebec is ready to leave the province rather than succumb to provincial government demands that would require their children to be taught evolution and homosexuality. While the government sees its actions as nothing more than enforcing technical regulations, many view the case an intolerance of Christian faith.
The community runs a small Mennonite school, out of a church in Roxton Falls, where eleven children in elementary grades were expected to commence studies this fall. Subjects include reading, writing, math, science, geography, social sciences, music and French. However, they are not schooled in evolution and homosexuality (sex education) as demanded by the official provincial curriculum.
Quebec Education Ministry spokesman Francois Lefebvre told LifeSiteNews.com that the province has two requirements for approval of private schools. "That the teachers are certified and that the provincial curriculum which is mandatory in all Quebec schools is followed," he said.
Ronald Goosen, a spokesman for the families, told LifeSiteNews.com that the community rejects both demands. With regard to certified teachers, he said, "we have pulled our students out of public schools and by asking us to have certified teachers they are asking us to send our teachers to public school. So basically they're asking something of us that we don't feel we can do."
Regarding the curriculum, Goosen said, "Some of the things - the theory of evolution would be a problem, the attitudes portrayed, the lifestyles we don't ascribe to, making it look that single motherhood is fine, that alternate lifestyles are fine - gay 'marriage', we'd be very much against that."
After visiting the Mennonites in November, the Ministry of Education told the school that their teaching was not up to standard and threatened them with legal action. Parents were informed that their children must be enrolled in government-approved schools by the fall.
Given other incidents in the province, Goossen was concerned that if they don't comply, children might be taken from their families by social workers. In 2002, social workers in Aylmer removed seven children from a Mennonite family because the family used spanking as a form of discipline.
This move is an enactment of the Ministry of Education's decision last year to shut down schools that don't teach the full government-approved curriculum. The Ministry threatened to shut down private Evangelical schools that didn't want to teach evolution and sex-education (See http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/oct/06102404.html ).
The Mayor of Roxton Falls, Jean-Marie Laplante, said that the majority of non-Mennonites in his town support the school. Laplante has complained to the education department and Education Minister, Michelle Courchesne, to save the school from being shut down.
"We want to keep these people here - they're part of our community," the Mayor told the National Post. "They're good neighbours. They integrated into the community, they work hard, they have farms, they work in businesses in the region."
The prospect of losing the families, said the Mayor, "hurts economically, but it also hurts because everybody loves these people and we're saying, 'Why? Why is this happening?' " (Contact the Mayor here: email: email@example.com)
Goosen told LifeSiteNews.com that the families are serious about moving and will be gone in a couple of weeks when school commences. He noted that most have already rented housing in Ontario. Should the government reconsider and allow them the freedom to educate their children within the boundaries of their faith, the community would gladly stay he said.
Lefebvre told LifeSiteNews.com that the school had not yet applied for permission to run privately. However, Goosen responded that the ministry of education had all the required information and his application was not 'officially' submitted only due to a technicality related to the online submission process.
Moreover, said Goosen, "we have been informed that our application would be rejected since they require certified teachers and adherence to the curriculum."
Lefebvre at first seemed conciliatory. He claimed that the regulations "do not exclude giving other courses or teachings related to their religious convictions, but at this moment it is outside of the official program of education."
LifeSiteNews.com asked whether a compromise could be reached, whether it would be possible to eliminate from the school's curriculum the offensive parts which deal with evolution and homosexuality. Lefebvre replied, "It's difficult to say because the educational program insists that students acquire competence in the whole program, therefore how could you eliminate one part of the program and still have a general competence?" He referred to religious schools in Quebec, emphasizing that they also have to "respect the program of education (curriculum) of Quebec."
Goosen told LifeSiteNews.com that the Mennonite community has its own curriculum which is accepted in seven other Canadian provinces. "Our own curriculum system has served us well and produced good results," he said.
The option of home schooling is permitted, Lefebvre stated in answer to another question, as long as the progress of the children is reported as satisfactory to the local education ministry. He told LifeSiteNews.com that homeschoolers in the province must be receiving an equivalent education as those in public schools, which means the provincial curriculum must be followed. That curriculum, with its pro-gay sex education and its teaching of evolution, remains unacceptable to many.
To politely express concerns to the Ministry of Education in Quebec:
Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport
1035, rue De La Chevrotière
Phone : 418 644-0664
Fax : 418 646-7551
The Opposition Party ADQ may also be contacted here:
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