A Toronto yeshiva along with two other private schools is suing the government of Ontario for their portion of federal funds allocated through provinces by the Canadian government for COVID-related health and safety measures in schools.
Toronto Cheder, Metropolitan Preparatory Academy in Toronto and Woodland Christian High School in Kitchener, Ontario have jointly filed a lawsuit charging that they are entitled to receive grants from the $763 million Safe Return to Class Fund, reported the Canadian Jewish News.
The fund was set up by the federal government and transferred to Ontario to be used for improving ventilation, sanitation and other COVID safety measures in schools.
The lawsuit argues that the funds, which were only distributed to Ontario public and Catholic schools – both of which are publicly funded by the province – should have been accessible to the province’s 1,500 private schools that teach over 150,000 students.
The lawsuit requests that the funds be allotted to private schools on the same basis as public and Catholic schools received the monetary aid.
It also asks for a judgement declaring that “Ontario acted unlawfully, unreasonably, improperly, disproportionately, arbitrarily, and in excess of its authority.”
“Ontario’s implementation of the Safe Return to Class Fund — specifically its decision to exclude independent schools — is unfair, unreasonable and unlawful, and constitutes a breach of the applicants’ and other independent schools’ legitimate expectations and vested rights. These schools operate in the public interest and have a role to play in the public health interest as well,” the suit stated.
The case will be adjudicated in Ontario Divisional Court on August 9.
An affidavit by Toronto Cheder executive director Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz stated that the school spent nearly $45,000 on expenditures related to COVID.
“Toronto Cheder and its students and staff have endured this pandemic like every other school in Ontario. We have complied with public health requirements and closure orders. If a single school is less protected than others and thus, more at risk of an outbreak, the health and safety of all residents of Ontario/Canada are at risk,” stated the affidavit.
As opposed to other provinces, Ontario only funds its public and Catholic school systems. Private, independent and faith-based schools do not receive public money.
B’nai Brith Canada, who is an intervenor in the suit, called the province’s actions “completely unjustifiable” and discriminatory against children attending independent schools.
“The province needs to reverse course and treat all children equally,” said B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn.