Groups Seek "No" to Segregation of Disabled School-Children

For Immediate Release

October 8, 1996

For decades, the prevailing attitude of educators was that like could only be taught with like. Even today, there remains a residue of sentiment among some school officials that unless all of a particular class-room's children require a similar amount of individualized attention, quality teaching cannot be conducted. Their solution? Special classes for these "children with special needs".

Four groups are challenging this as intervenors in a case that they hope will establish, once and for all, the principle that children in Canada have a basic right to be educated in accordance with any needs they may have, and in the company of children of a similar age and neighbourhood, irrespective of their disability. Along with Carol and Clayton Eaton, People First Canada, the Canadian Association for Community Living, Confederation des Organismes de Personnes Handicapées (COPHAN) and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), are asking Canada's Supreme Court to uphold a significant lower court ruling. In February of 1995, the Ontario Court of Appeal found for the Eatons and against the Brant County Board of Education in a case involving the Board's refusal to provide schooling for their daughter, Emily, except in a segregated setting. The judgement was seen as particularly encouraging, coming on the heels of a Quebec court decision (circumstantially similar) that found against the parents of Danny Rouette. That decision persuaded Quebec's COPHAN to join the intervenors at the national level in the Eaton case. "Rouette allows local school-boards to use cost as a pretext for depriving disabled Quebec school-children of their equality rights," said COPHAN spokes-person Lucie Lemieux-Brassard. "If this kind of argument isn't refuted at the first opportunity, some irreversible policy steps could be taken soon—and in other provinces also," she said.

CCD Human Rights Committee chairperson, Hugh Scher, believes that much rides on the outcome of Eaton. "Emily Eaton's parents want equality for their daughter. A favourable conclusion of this case will underscore the point that you don't have appropriate accommodation until you have factored in equality," Scher said.


Mr. Hugh Scher, 416-515-9686 (business) 416-222-3590 (h)
Ms. Catherine Frazee 416-598-4638 ext. 328 (business) 416-924-5502 (h)