A Toronto woman waging a single-handed court battle against public funding for Catholic schools fought to keep her case alive on Wednesday.
Reva Landau is representing herself, without co-counsel. She has a law degree, but has never practiced in the province.
Landau is arguing that the court should reduce Catholic school funding to the same formula used in 1867, which she says would eliminate public funding for Catholic high schools and restrict elementary school funding to contributions from the property taxes of Catholic landowners.
“Only Roman Catholics get the chance to send their children to a school that promotes their philosophies without having to pay any extra out of their pocket,” she said in an interview. “If we live in a multicultural society, does that seem fair, does that seem just?”
Given the choice, she would prefer to see Catholic schools be completely unfunded, but that would require action from the Legislature, she said.
On Wednesday, Landau argued against a motion from the government’s lawyers to dismiss her challenge before it goes to trial.
Justice David Corbett said one of the things he must decide is if she is capable of proving her case competently. He pointed to a problem with the way she cited history textbooks as factual evidence, without an expert who can attest that the books are reliable historical record.
Landau said she would fix that problem at trial, and blamed the error on the small amount of free legal advice that she had received.
Nevertheless, Justice David Corbett said the factum she wrote was “excellent.”
The government is also challenging her standing in the case, arguing that she is not involved in the Catholic education system and is only interested as a taxpayer.
Landau told reporters that’s an important role, because her research shows Catholic schools get more funding per student than secular schools. Asked why she cares so much, she said, “If I don’t, who will?”
Landau is expected to continue her arguments on Thursday. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is intervening in her favour, will then present its arguments.
Landau’s legal argument
Reva Landau is arguing that the existence of Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic schools is protected by the Constitution, but that the legislation that actually funds Catholic schools today is vulnerable to a Charter challenge. She says the legislation governing Catholic school funding would fail to live up Charter rules.
She argues Catholic high schools in 1867 didn’t have a right to funding and elementary school funding was limited to portions of the property taxes paid by Catholic landowners and businesses located close to the school.
Catholic Values clash with anti-bullying law
The province may soon be defending its new anti-bullying legislation in court, according to the judge in Reva Landau’s case.
In a discussion on how the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to Catholic school boards, Justice David Corbett said the new anti-bullying law is a “controversial” political issue that may well become a legal challenge, in which Catholic schools and “the secular values in the Charter may collide.”
The anti-bullying legislation protects students from homophobic and transphobic bullying and ensures schools allow gay-straight alliance clubs.
Corbett has experience with the laws that govern Ontario’s Catholic schools. He represented gay teenager Marc Hall, who brought the Durham Catholic District School Board to court in 2002 because his school wouldn’t allow him to bring his boyfriend to Prom.
Landau said she is not using the new law in her case, but Catholic values are one reason she’s trying to stop their schools from being funded.
“As a non-Catholic I am funding a system that has views on abortion, the rights of gays to marry and contraception that I don’t agree with … as a taxpayer, I am being forced to fund them.”