Religion and Education: The Story of a Conflicted Canadian Partnership

  • Leo Van Arragon


In Canada, education is a matter of provincial and territorial jurisdiction so that, while there is a federal constitutional framework, there is not a national system of education. This has had implications for regulation and protection of religion and religious diversity in and by education systems. This chapter examines the resulting regulatory variety but does so in the context of some of the conceptual ambiguities and creative social tensions inherent in the intersection of religion and education. Readers are encouraged to become critically aware of their own positionality in relationship with issues related to this dynamic and complex area of social engagement. This is an important topic because both education and religion are areas of social practice about which most people have strong opinions and feelings. Education represents huge investments of social and financial capital and regularly appears on political platforms during elections as an important measure of commitment to social equality. Education, in other words, carries a lot of freight and debates about education seem to generate a great deal of energy. This chapter is a contribution to an ongoing social conversation, encouraging readers to reconsider issues about which there is considerable accepted but often unexamined common sense.


Education Religious freedom Citizenship Canadian values Regulatory frameworks Indoctrination Government Secularization 


  1. Arai, B. (2000). Reasons for home schooling in Canada. Canadian Journal of Education, 25(3), 204–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asad, T. (2003). Formations of the secular. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bader, V. (2007). Secularism or democracy? Associational governance of religious diversity. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beaman, L. (2008). Defining harm: Religious freedom and the limits of the law. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
  5. Beaman, L. (2014). Deep equality as an alternative to accommodation and tolerance. Nordic. Journal of Religion and Society, 27(2), 89–111.Google Scholar
  6. Beaman, L. (2017). Deep equality in an era of religious diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beaman, L., & Van Arragon, L. (Eds.). (2015). Issues in religion and education: Whose religion? Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  8. Beckford, J. (2003). Social theory and religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beyer, P. (2006). Religions in a global society. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Blomberg, D. (2007). Wisdom and curriculum. Sioux Center: Dordt College Press.Google Scholar
  11. Boesveld, S. (2012, May 3). Suspended Nova Scotia student defiantly wears t-shirt with pro-Jesus message. National Post. Retrieved from http://news.nation
  12. Bosco, R. M. (2014). Securing the sacred: Religion, national security and the western state. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brown, W. (2006). Regulating aversion: Tolerance in the age of identity and empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Browne, R. (2015). Space for faith: Accommodating religion on campus. Macleans. Retrieved from
  15. Cavanaugh, W. (2009). The myth of religious violence: Secular ideology and the roots of modern conflicts. Oxford: University of Oxford Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. CBC News. (2011, September 18). Tempers flare over prayer space in schools. CBC News. Retrieved from
  17. Connolly, W. (2002). Theory out of bounds. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  18. Connolly, W. (2005). Pluralism. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Glenn, C. L. (2000). The ambiguous embrace: Government and faith-based schools and social agencies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Glenn, C. L. (2011). Contrasting models of state and school: A comparative historical study of parental choice and state control. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  21. Glenn, C. L., & de Groof, J. (2005). Balancing freedom, autonomy and accountability in education. Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers.Google Scholar
  22. Globe and Mail. (2010, March 9). Niqab-wearing woman kicked out of Quebec class again. Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobe
  23. Gravel, S. (2015). Le programme québécois éthique et culture réligieuse : Enseignants et impartialité? In L. Beaman & L. Van Arragon (Eds.), Issues in religion and education: Whose religion. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  24. Hervieu-Leger, D. (2000). Religion as a chain of memory. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Humphries, A. (2016, November 15). B.C. mother asks court to keep aboriginal ‘cleansing’ ceremony out of public schools. National Post. Retrieved from
  26. Hurd, E. S. (2008). The politics of secularism in international relations. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Mackay, K. (1969). Religious information and moral development: The report of the committee on religious education in the public schools of the province of Ontario. Toronto: Ontario Department of Education.Google Scholar
  28. Martin, D. (2005). On secularization: Towards a revised general theory. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  29. McGarry, J. (2012, February 21). Supreme Court ruling on Quebec religion classes puts limit on parental rights. National Post. Retrieved from
  30. McGuire, M. B. (2008). Lived religion: Faith and practice in everyday life. Oxford: University of Oxford Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nisbet, R. (1976). The quest for community. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Numbers, R. L. (1992). The creationists: The evolution of scientific creationism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  33. Ontario Ministry of Education. (2008). Finding common ground: Character development in Ontario schools, K – 1 2. Retrieved from
  34. Palmer, P. (1993). To know as we are known: Education as a spiritual journey. San Fransisco: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  35. Rappaport, R. (1999). Ritual and religion in the making of humanity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Richardson, J. T. (1991). Cult/Brainwashing cases and freedom of religion. Journal of Church and State, 33(1), 55–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Richardson, J. T. (1996). “Brainwashing” claims and minority religions outside the United States: Cultural diffusion of a questionable concept in the legal arena. Brigham Young University Law, 4, 873–904.Google Scholar
  38. Richardson, J. T., & Introvigne, M. (2001). “Brainwashing” theories in European parliamentary and administrative reports on “cults” and “sects”. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40(2), 143–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schiffauer, W., et al. (Eds.). (2004). Civil enculturation: Nation-state, school and ethnic difference in The Netherlands, Britain, Germany and France. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  40. Sergiovanni, T. J. (1999). Building community in schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  41. Spinner-Halev, J. (2000). Surviving diversity: Religion and democratic citizenship. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Sullivan, W. (2005). The impossibility of religious freedom. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Van Arragon, L. (2015). We educate, they indoctrinate: Religion and the politics of togetherness in Ontario public education (Doctoral dissertation). Ottawa: University of Ottawa.Google Scholar
  44. Van Pelt, D. A., Allison, P. A., & Allison, D. J. (2007). Ontario’s private schools: Who chooses them and why? A Fraser Institute Occasional Paper. Retrieved from
  45. Zine, J. (2008). Canadian Islamic schools: Unravelling the politics of faith, gender, knowledge and identity. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leo Van Arragon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OttawaOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations