TORONTO - There is no reason creationism could not be taught in addition to evolution and "other theories" if private religious schools are brought into Ontario public school boards, Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said Wednesday.
The Conservatives are promising to give private religious schools $400 million if they opt into the public system, teach the provincial curriculum, hire accredited teachers and administer standardized tests, Tory said.
But that doesn't mean Christian schools couldn't teach creationism on top of the existing provincial curriculum, he said after touring a 100-year-old Jewish school in a Toronto suburb.
"It's still called the theory of evolution," Tory said. "They teach evolution in the Ontario curriculum, but they also could teach the fact to the children that there are other theories that people have out there that are part of some Christian beliefs."
The Liberals quickly jumped on that comment, saying it would be a violation of the Ontario curriculum -- which already teaches evolution -- for creationism to be taught outside the context of a religion class.
Tory later clarified his remarks to say that he meant creationism could be taught in such a class, and that he did not mean to suggest the two theories would be given equal weight in a science lab.
The Conservative election promise to fund religious schools would ensure all students get a more well-rounded education, because it would make the schools subject to provincial inspections, Tory said.
He called it unfair that Catholic schools get tax dollars while other faith-based schools are left to struggle on their own.
"There will be some that will disagree with that," Tory said. "But I think people will respect ... that I'm actually putting forward a proposal as to how we can deal with an issue that's been around for decades, and that I'm prepared to talk about it without fearmongering."
Education Minister Kathleen Wynne -- who is running against Tory for her Toronto seat -- said Tory's comments prove he hasn't properly thought out his policy. Creationism is currently not part of the provincial science curriculum and isn't given the same weight as evolution, she said.
Catholic schools may talk about creationism, Wynne said, but only in the context of a broader religious discussion.
"It's useful for students to have the opportunity to know the ideas that are out there and are part of our history," Wynne said.
"What we teach as the truth is the question. The scientific truths are the ones that are included in the Ontario curriculum. That's the curriculum that we support."