Nunavut official: DEAs may allow giveaways of religious material
“No one can be forced to participate”
District education authorities may, under the Education Act, allow the distribution of religious materials outside the education program, Kathy Okpik, Nunavut’s deputy minister of education, said in a written statement released after 5:00 p.m. Nov. 18.
But Nunavut DEAs may not show favoritism to one religious group over another, she said.
“If a District Education Authority allows one religious group into the schools to distribute materials, it must allow all religious groups the same access,” Okpik said in her statement.
The GN statement comes just two days after Nunatsiaq News reported the Arviat DEA gave Gideons International of Canada permission to distribute Bibles to elementary, middle and high school children from Grade 5 to Grade 12 in Arviat Nov. 21 and Nov. 22.
“With Arviat being the first District Education Authority in Nunavut, this will allow us to have discussions in other communities because of this open door,” the Gideons group said Nov. 9 in a press release.
In addition to Bible donations at Arviat’s three schools, the Gideons will also give Bibles away at hotels, the Arviat health centre and the RCMP station.
In her statement, Okpik said the GN and all other public agencies in the territory must comply with the Nunavut Human Rights Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
And she said parents, students and education department staff have the right to inform the DEA that they do not want to receive religious material, or participate in religious programs.
“No one, including teachers and students can be forced to participate in religious programs or receive religious materials if they object on personal, moral or religious grounds,” Okpik said.