It took the province of Ontario from the establishment of its free public school system in 1846 to 1951 to extend the principle of equality of educational opportunity to the provision of free textbooks for all elementary students. It took another fourteen years to apply the principle to students in grades 9–12. This study explores the sporadic and partial steps taken towards that decision over time. It concludes that the prime reason for the late implementation of the policy was Ontario’s employment of what was called “permissive legislation,” which gave school districts the autonomy to decide whether to institute the policy. In all other provinces, once the decision was made at the level of the Department of Education, it applied across all districts and was implemented immediately. The study examines the province of Ontario in the context of other provinces.
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Journal of Canadian Studies 53(2): 392-422. Doi:10.3138/jcs.2018-0024.
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