Keith Wedel is uprooting his family today and moving them to a new province so his children can have the religious education he wants for them.
The pastor of a Mennonite Church in Roxton Falls, a small town in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, will make the 21/2-hour drive across the provincial boundary to the Ontario town of Alexandria. There, thanks to different laws, he will have more freedom to provide his children with an education - including a biblical account of creation - in a private Mennonite school staffed by Mennonite teachers.
Mr. Wedel, 32, his wife and four young children join five other Roxton Falls Mennonite families who have already made the journey to Ontario as the fight over faith-based education heats up in Quebec.
The Mennonites closed the Roxton Falls school, which taught as many as 11 children, after the Quebec government deemed it illegal because its teachers are not licensed and it doesn't follow the provincial curriculum.
In Ontario, private schools are essentially seen as private businesses. Schools have to be registered with the government, but they don't have to follow the provincial curriculum, and principals and teachers are not necessarily certified by the Ontario College of Teachers.
"For us, it's very important that we have our own teachers, of our own church and of our own faith that are teaching our children," Mr. Wedel said in an interview yesterday.
He hasn't sold his home. Neither have the other families who have moved to Ontario to join another Mennonite congregation. They hope a deal can be reached with the Quebec government to reopen the school, located in the church building.
"We think that having freedom of religion grants us the right to have our own school. Across the rest of Canada and the U.S., it's been granted to us. So we're hoping to receive the same thing here like we have in other provinces," he said. "If the right is granted to us to continue having our own school, then we'll move back."
The issue of faith-based education is a political lightning rod. In Ontario, it has become an issue for the provincial election as Opposition Leader John Tory promised to extend public funding to all religious schools, not just Roman Catholic ones - a move Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said would threaten the stability of the public education system.
Ontario had 69 Mennonite schools as of the 2004-05 school year, with an enrolment of about 3,300 children.
Michelle Despault, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Kathleen Wynne, said parents should be aware when putting their child into a private school that has not been inspected by the province. "It's up to people to find out how tuition money is being spent," she said.
At the Roxton Falls Mennonite school, Mr. Wedel said, children were learning the basic subjects with references made to the Bible.