Let's play the Charter game:
Ontario’s funding of Catholic schools violates the charter and should be stopped, a Toronto woman is arguing in a court challenge the province will try to shut down today.
Reva Landau doesn’t agree with some of the church’s teachings, and is arguing that it infringes her freedom of religion to help foot the bill for its schools.
“They’re entitled to have beliefs I don’t agree with,” she said in an interview.
“There are many people who have beliefs I don’t’ agree with. But these beliefs are being funded with my tax dollars.”
If we are to follow this process with some logical consistency it would mean that, ahem, no one could be forced to subsidize anything they don't believe in. Which would completely paralyze modern government. Since it would be impossible to get all 34 million Canadians to agree on everything, let's assume that if even 5% of the population objected to their tax dollars being spent on a matter of conscience the government couldn't do it.
On the positive side that would mean that the country's libertarians and classical liberals could quickly dismantle the welfare state. While libertarian parties rarely get anything close to 5% of the vote, that's because most libertarians don't vote or reluctantly vote Conservative. You could probably get most conservatives in this country, that's another 25% to 30% of the electorate, to ditch the egregious bits of the welfare and regulatory state. We could roll back Leviathan to at least the Diefenbaker era.
On the negative side you can easily get 5% of the electorate to dismantle the military, cripple the police forces and block the passage of any further trade agreements with foreign governments. Do you really want hippies having a veto on our foreign policy? I didn't think so. It might also be possible for the Greenistas, who are about 5% of the electorate, to jam up almost any industrial development. How? Because even if the development is privately financed most of the roads, sewer and electrical facilities are publicly financed and operated.
This is a revolution that, whatever its intrinsic merits, no one really wants.
Ms Landau is couching in the language liberty the policy of paralysis. You cannot run any government on the basis of only one person, or a small group of people objecting to anything that might infringe their conscience. There has to be a more rigorous intellectual standard that minority veto for any law, including laws against murder, theft and extortion.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Ms Landau are hanging their hats on the notion of no taxation without individual consent. They probably wouldn't express things in those terms, yet that is the logical end point of the argument. If I can object to my money paying for Catholic schools, then I can object to my money paying for almost anything that is a matter of conscience. But what is a matter of conscience?
I object very strongly to much of what gets taught in the public schools. Rather a lot of the Leftist propaganda that gets passed off as curriculum is far more irrational than anything in Catholic dogma. Holy Mother Church has made her peace with Aristotle. David Suzuki? Not so much. That doesn't even get us into trickier issues, such as how catholic the Catholic school system really is. I've met more than a few RCs over the years who consider the separate school system to be only nominally Catholic, too afraid of advocating basic church doctrine for fear of offending the political correct commissars in the Ministry of Education.
We're in one heck of a conceptual mess here. The Fathers of Confederation, or more precisely the statist Fathers, insisted in constitutional protection for the already established publicly funded Catholic schools. The more pro-freedom Fathers, such as George Brown, objected to any funding for any religious schools, preferring a single broadly secular system. The Quebecois bitched and complained for years, if you read the newspapers of the era that was basically the tone, that not having Catholic schools was anti-Catholic. When it was pointed out that the Protestant sects weren't getting publicly funded schools either, the Quebecois did the old Gallic shrugged, ignored the logical point, and demanded special status. Once the Irish Catholic vote became key to winning power in Canada West (now Ontario), the political calculus made Catholic schools inevitable.
So constitutionally we are stuck with them. The Charter challenge here is to roll back the Catholic schools to about 1867, which would mean just funding the elementary system as few people made it as far as High School in Victorian Canada. This would, in effect, destroy the Catholic system through the back door. It was considered a massive pain when Ontario only partially funded Catholic High Schools, a policy reversed by a flip flopping Bill Davis just before he left office.
Since the Charter is a vaguely written document it would not take too much effort, certainly not for our Ermined Masters on the Supreme Court, to argue that either a) Had the Fathers foreseen near universal secondary education, they probably would have inserted language protecting full funding b) mumbling something about evolving community standards in a free and democratic society. Should the Supreme Court actually ban the public funding of Catholic High Schools, the court's legitimacy would be destroyed.
It's a peculiar thing about how the human mind operates. You take away people's free stuff and they get very angry, very quickly. The Supreme Court tore up the abortion laws and allowed the country's abortionists merry reign to do their work. Oh, well, free and democratic society. Medicare's legal foundations, at least in Quebec, were undermined by the Chaoulli decision. Oh, well, distinct society. Tell people they can't send their kids to a watered down Catholic School? You haven't seen rage yet.
Canadian Supreme Court justices, much like their American counterparts, have a keen instinct for institutional self preservation. That's why John Roberts voted to keep Obamacare. It's why the Supreme's eventually stopped throwing out New Deal legislation, even if it was blatantly unconstitutional. Canadians have an unusually high boiling point, certainly when compared to Americans. It would be a very brave Supreme Court judge who would want to find out exactly where that point is.