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Chamberlain v. Surrey School District, [2002] 4 SCR 710


Surrey school board passed resolution refusing to authorize three books dealing with same sex parent families.


Was the decision ultra vires of the board because it was based in religious values?


Public schools must operate according to “strictly secular” principles (tolerance/discrimination), which cannot deny respect/recognition to another group in society. Parental “religious” views are considered but are not determinative of administrative decisions.


*S.76 of School Act: “conducted on strictly secular…principles”
**Secular: Values of tolerance and non-discrimination; may consider parents but must give equal recognition to other members of community
*Religious views have a part in the deliberation process, however, religious views cannot exclude other societal groups
**Acted on concern of certain parents of morality of same-sex relationship, without considering interest of other groups “even-handed consideration of views”
**SCC takes pains to state that religious beliefs can play a part in public discourse, but does not define to what extent
*Children can’t learn about tolerance (people’s entitlement to respect) unless they are exposed to different views – whether this causes cognitive dissonance or not
**Role of the board as opposed to the parents making submissions to the board must be kept separate
*Dissent: Decision must respect the rights of parents to raise children in accordance with their conscience
**Parents are in best position to make all decisions necessary to ensure well being
**It was a reasonable decision not to have these books in earliest grades, but allow for later grades – reflective of what the parents felt was in best interest
**“Tolerance” ought not to be employed as “obliterating disagreement”

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