Slagging politicians is popular sport, so when the trustees of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) do something particularly admirable, it’s only fair to take notice.
At a board meeting last month, trustees unanimously passed a motion by Josh Matlow for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy designed to protect children whose parents have no immigration status and who are often denied their legal right to schooling.
From now on, questions about immigration status will be restricted, and a question on registration forms about “status in Canada’ will be removed.
The impetus for these changes arose from an incident last year when federal immigration agents entered two local schools and held children to get at parents who faced deportation. Such agents are not, the policy makes clear, welcome in schools.
Of course, it has long been unlawful to deny schooling to the children of those here illegally – a 1993 amendment to Ontario’s Education Act prohibited it. The thinking back then was simple: kids shouldn’t be punished for the immigration problems of their parents.
But though the Toronto board is relatively progressive in its approach, it has sometimes worried more about its ability to identify international fee-paying students than about respecting the education rights of children. (The board advertises in Asian countries for international students, who pay a fee of $11,000 each.) While a preoccupation with preserving these revenues is understandable, doing so at the expense of the most vulnerable is not.
The trustees’ decision is not likely to win them extra votes, but it will reinforce the human rights ideals on which our society is built and quietly make a big difference in the lives of vulnerable children.