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

Facts:

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

Issue(s):

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

Ratio:

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.

Analysis:

*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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