The battle to preserve the rights of all Nova Scotia children to an inclusive education is joined. The opening of hostilities came in the tentative agreement on a new teachers’ contract, and its concession to whispered demands for a retreat from inclusive education:
This tentative agreement creates an independent Commission to study and make recommendations on inclusive education. This Commission, which is funded by the Department and the NSTU, will study how inclusion has been implemented in Nova Scotia, review best practices throughout the world, and provide recommendations related to funding, resources and resource allocation and accountability, professional development, alignment of initiatives, and such other matters as the Commission deems appropriate. Further, the Commission will make recommendations regarding a mechanism for future regular reviews of inclusive education.
The commission will include one person appointed by government, one appointed by the union, and a chair jointly agreed upon. Affected children will be excluded, along with their parents and organizational advocates. It’s the education system’s equivalent of letting building inspectors make final decisions about the accessibility of public places.
The peculiar evil of segregated schools is that they rob all children—the able bodied and nimble witted as much as those facing physical and intellectual obstacles—of the lessons of humility, empathy, and discernment that come from close experience with the full range of human abilities. Inclusion is the best way for classrooms to instil the grace required for a compassionate citizenry. The meek may not inherit the earth, but they have much to teach us, and we are all the better for absorbing those lessons.
Of course the union and the government will insist they are “fully committed” to inclusion and want only to improve it. Those who would take away the rights of society’s weakest members will always do so in the name of improving their lot. The exclusion of children and their guardians and advocates from the process puts the lie to these cheery words.
If the governing Liberals and NSTU leaders imagine they can tinker with the fundamental human rights of children they should reconsider. The equality rights of children with disabilities are enshrined in Canada’s Constitution. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. requires Canada to ensure that children with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality, and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live.
Equality, once attained, is never readily surrendered. “Creative and sustainable solutions” devised without the knowledge and consent of those whose rights are deemed a “problem” are likely to be regressive, divisive, and cruel. The ancient principle is expressed in Latin as, Nihil de nobis, sine nobis.
In English: Nothing about us without us.