Policy/Program Memorandum No. 108
Issued under the authority of
the Deputy Minister of Education
|Date of Issue:
||January 12, 1989
||Effective: Until revoked or modified
||OPENING OR CLOSING
EXERCISES IN PUBLIC ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS
||Chairpersons of Boards of Education
Directors of Education of Boards of Education
Principals of Public
Elementary and Secondary Schools
The decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, dated September 23,
1988, struck down subsection 28 (1) of Regulation 262 concerning religious
exercises in public elementary schools. This subsection, and the decision of
the Court relating to it, did not apply to schools operated by separate school
The spirit of the decision of the Court of Appeal was essentially
that one religion must not be given a position of primacy and that the content
of opening or closing exercises must reflect the multicultural realities and
traditions of Ontario society.
Subsequent to the Court ruling, an interim policy, dated September
28, 1988, was established, whereby opening or closing exercises were made
optional for school boards. In schools where such exercises were to be held,
however, "0 Canada" and content that reflected the spirit of the ruling of the
Court of Appeal were required.
This interim policy was intended to remain in effect only until
policy considerations were finalized and amendments to Regulation 262 were
Amendments to Regulation 262
A copy of the amendments to Regulation 262
relating to opening or closing exercises accompanies this memorandum. The
amendments provide for a new section 4. Subsections 28(1), (2), and (3), and
subsections 29(1), (2), and (3), as well as other references to "religious
exercises" in sections 28 and 29, are deleted.
The following points summarize the content of the new section 4:
- All public elementary and secondary schools in Ontario must be
opened or closed each day with the national anthem. "God Save the Queen" may be
- The inclusion of any content beyond "0 Canada" in opening or
closing exercises is to be optional for public school boards.
- Where public school boards resolve to include, in the opening or
closing exercises in their schools, anything in addition to the content set out
in item 1 above, it must be composed of either or both of the following:
- one or more readings that impart social, moral, or spiritual
values and that are representative of our multicultural society. Readings may
be chosen from both scriptural writings, including prayers, and secular
- a period of silence.
- Parents who object to part or all of the exercises may apply to
the principal to have their children exempted. Pupils who are adults may also
exercise such a right.
When implementing the amendments listed above, school boards should
take particular note of the following:
The purposes of opening or closing exercises are patriotic and
educational. Such exercises are intended to nurture allegiance to Canada and to
contribute to the social, moral, and spiritual development of the pupils.
Contributing to the social, moral, and spiritual development of
pupils includes reinforcing the positive societal values that, in general,
Canadians hold and regard as essential to the well-being of our society. These
values transcend cultures and faiths, reinforce democratic rights and
responsibilities, and are based on a fundamental belief in the worth of all
Readings selected for opening or closing exercises must fulfil
Since the social, moral, and spiritual development of Canadians
has roots in many religious and philosophical traditions, readings must be
drawn from a variety of scriptural and secular sources representative of our
multicultural society. Prayers, including the "Lord's Prayer", may be included,
but only as readings.
The collective recitation of a specific reading from a
particular religious tradition can no longer be permitted, as such a practice
is not in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and
- Period of Silence
A period of silence is intended to be used for such activities
as personal reflection or individual silent prayer.