August 25, 1997
(Executive Council)

Premier releases text of new Term 17

Premier Brian Tobin today unveiled the wording of the new Term 17 which will lead to a single school system for the children of Newfoundland and Labrador.

"This new Term will make the legislature responsible for the administration of schools and guarantee students the opportunity for religious education and observances," said the Premier. "When I announced this referendum on education reform to the people of the province on July 31, 1997, Government put forward a clear, concise question setting out the direction we intended to proceed with for the education system of the future."

The question Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will be asked on September 2 is as follows:

"Do you support a single school system where all children, regardless of their religious affiliation, attend the same schools where opportunities for religious education and observances are provided?"

Government has stated clearly that the proposed new Term 17 would clearly reflect and conform with the position presented in the referendum question. The following is the text of the new Term 17:

17.(1) In lieu of section ninety-three of the Constitution Act, 1867, this section shall apply in respect of the Province of Newfoundland.

(2) In and for the Province of Newfoundland, the Legislature shall have exclusive authority to make laws in relation to education, but shall provide for courses in religion that are not specific to a religious denomination.

(3) Religious observances shall be permitted in a school where requested by parents.

"I believe the new Term is as clear and straightforward as the question itself," said Premier Tobin.

Meanwhile, Government retained the services of renowned constitutional expert, Ian Binnie, Q.C. and prominent local lawyer and former Attorney General for Canada, John Crosbie, P.C., Q.C., for legal opinions on the new Term. Both Mr. Binnie and Mr. Crosbie have reviewed the Term in detail and have supplied Government with their views.

It is clear from a review of these legal opinions that government has produced a constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to religious education and observances within the schools of Newfoundland and Labrador. Government has indicated all along that the courses in religion would not be specific to any one denomination and the legal opinions confirm this. The new Term allows for the creation of a single school system where all children, regardless of their religious affiliation, attend the same schools. The new Term will eliminate the requirement found in the current Term to elect school board members by denomination. It also eliminates the power to assign or dismiss teachers based on their religion.

"We promised to provide the people with a clear, concise question and an equally clear new Term 17," said the Premier. "Today we have delivered on this coitment."

In concluding, the Premier urged people to vote on September 2 and to support the proposed amendment.

Contact: Carl Cooper, Department of Education, (709) 729-5040 or Heidi Bonnell, Office of the Premier, (709) 729-3564.

1997 08 25 2:15 p.m.