Canadian teachers hold a unique and complex position within society. They are expected to teach their students to think and act in ways, which are in line with community and societal values and beliefs. It is a profession that is effectively a 'moral enterprise' 1 Additionally, teachers are conducting their profession in an ever-changing society that has witnessed increasing diversity and moral pluralism, and a higher degree of accountability from both schools and teachers. This has created a situation in which teachers are under greater pressure than ever before and have lead to ethical dilemmas and tensions, and rising levels of litigation in schools. .
Both the Chamberlain2 and Morin3 cases illustrate the complex nature of balancing both the moral and ethical dilemmas within a complex context of societal and legal expectations. They illustrate the difficulty in dealing with controversy in the classroom, whether it is in regards to the 'how' of teaching in terms of methods used as in the Morin case, or the 'what' of teaching with the use of controversial materials and subjects in the classroom. Teachers are regarded as agents of a secular state, and, along with the schools, act as a "communication centre for a whole range of values and aspirations of a society".4 However, there is often a large degree of confusion in balancing this role as a state agent and teachers' own personal and professional beliefs and opinions. This features prominently in the area of academic freedom. Unlike other professions, when it comes to academic freedom, with the exception of post-secondary teachers and professors, teachers "do not enjoy any meaningful constitutional rights". The curriculum content is set at provincial and school board levels and there is very little room for teachers to exert any true academic freedom. .
However, in Morin, a middle school teacher challenged the school district's position in preventing him from continuing to teach a topic on fundamentalist Christianity and placed a ban on his use of a film to support and facilitate a discussion on this.