The Second Time Around

Discovery Collegiate
Bonavista, Newfoundland

By Tracy R. (Grade 12)

"Clyde Wells did what God couldn't do, he brought all religions together, " said Mr. Harvey Weir, director of STEM~Net, referring to the last education referendum in 1995. He went on to say that all denominations--Catholic, Pentecostal, United, and Anglican--were fighting together for the same cause.

As most children in Newfoundland and Labrador are preparing to head back to school on September 2nd , some children wonder where they will attend school this coming year.

A "YES" vote in the upcoming referendum is a vote to place all children, regardless of religion, in the same public school. A "NO" vote in the referendum is a vote to keep our Pentecostal and Catholic schools open.

There are a number of issues that must be dealt with before someone can make an informed decision on the matter; one being the financial considerations. The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador does not realistically have the funding to keep these schools in place and to run them properly.

There is also the issue of basic constitutional rights. If the people of Newfoundland and Labrador can wipe out schools with the mark of a simple "X", what might they wipe out next? Do the people of Newfoundland and Labrador really understand that the right to choose and practice their own religion is being stolen from right under their noses?

In a small survey of twelve people which was conducted at the Gander Mall, six of the twelve said they were strongly for the referendum, two said they were strongly against the referendum, three had a split decision considering both sides of the issue, and one person had no opinion. Maybe these results will reflect the results of all voters.

The Pentecostal pastor in Gander, Newfoundland, stated in a recent interview that he feels the people don't understand what they're voting for. He went on to speak about the situation in Florida, a few years ago, when the public voted to eliminate the use of the Bible and daily prayers in classrooms. This decision was soon regretted and citizens desperately tried to form new youth groups and reverse the decision that they themselves had made.

The pastor also stated the difference between integrated schools and secular schools. Integrated schools still have involvement from the local churches. However, if the provincial government wishes, secular schools will have no involvement from the churches and the churches will have no say in what is taught at the school. The pastor worries about the destruction of minority rights, not only of those people involved in the referendum but also the rights of other minority groups, such as natives.

The September 2nd referendum should bring answers to many of the questions facing Newfoundland and Labrador voters. However, they may not be the answers everyone wants to hear!

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