The area surrounding the school is a living testament to Toronto’s internationally recognized multicultural matrix. More than two-thirds of the area’s residents have arrived in the past two decades, principally from Pakistan, India and, in recent years, Afghanistan.
With Muslim students representing 80 per cent of this year’s graduating class at Valley Park, principal Nick Stefanoff has allowed a Muslim prayer service during school hours for the past several years, led by a junior imam, with separation of boys and girls.
Following a complaint, however, that such services violated a policy prohibiting religious instruction in public schools, a swirl of editorials, columns, letters to editors and blog posts has ensued.
These raise a host of questions, including: What is the appropriate separation of church and state in the Canadian context? What is the acceptability of gender segregation in a public school? And, ultimately, what are the upper limits of Canada’s multicultural ideals and identity?
As an exasperated Stefanoff recently told the Globe and Mail, “We’re doing something that’s working. . . Of all the things we’ve accomplished, this is one I’m proudest of, and now I’m second-guessing myself. But it is right.”
As Stefanoff’s frustrated comments reveal, multiculturalism in the world’s most multicultural city exists not only at the level of ideals and government policy, but in the day-to-day, lived reality of work, school, play and public interaction.
And it is perhaps this “rubbing-of shoulders,” community-level dynamic that holds the greatest promise for our multicultural future.
In my upper-level classes in religion and anthropology at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus, for example, gifted, articulate Muslim women students, some wearing burqas, discuss with gifted, articulate non-Muslim women, some wearing halter tops, the meaning of their dress. They sometimes note how the burqa for them is not the mantle of patriarchal domination, but a source of a positive sense of self in a highly sexualized, body-obsessed consumer culture...Righto, professor, just as Female Genital Mutilation gives chicks a positive sense of their own, um, genitals, and being allowed to attend prayers--even if one has to sit at the back--engenders a positive self image because, strictly speaking, only boys and men are required to pray in public.
See, in the name of multiculti you can justify all sorts of practices you would never wish on your own womenfolk (the soft bigotry of low expectations, anyone?)--a big reason why Western civ. is marching to its demise on the shoulders of gents like this opiner and the idiot school principle.