Don Morgan, School Board Associations respond to Catholic funding ruling
The Saskatchewan government is considering all options, including an appeal, following a Court of Queen’s Bench decision that the provincial government cannot fund non-Catholic students in Catholic Schools.
The province has 30 days to file an appeal.
“We have to make a decision about an appeal or whether there should be an appeal,” said Education Minister Don Morgan.
In a 242-page document from Justice Donald Layh issued Thursday, he said Saskatchewan’s funding of non-minority faith students in Catholic schools violates the province’s “duty of neutrality” under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The ruling states non-Catholic students may not be funded in Saskatchewan’s Catholic schools as of June 30, 2018.
However, the education minister said it would be possible for parents to pay for Catholic education if their children don’t have a baptismal certificate from the Catholic Church.
“If a non-Catholic student wanted to attend those schools, they would have to bear their own costs for that,” Morgan said, pegging the cost at about $10,000 per year.
“That would certainly be an option – not an affordable one for most families.”
Ministry of Justice officials are also considering whether a legislative solution is possible, Morgan said.
In a written statement, the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association’s past president and spokesperson Tom Fortosky expressed disappointment in the judge’s decision.
“This has already been a 12-year journey instigated by the public boards, and we don’t have much of an appetite to spend more on legal defence,” Fortosky said.
“However, we have an obligation to stand up for the constitutional rights of separate school divisions, so we are giving serious consideration to an appeal.”
The judgement is a culmination of the Public Schools of Saskatchewan’s efforts to achieve clarity in public funding for non-minority faith students in denominational schools, according to a prepared statement from Bert de Gooijer, public section chair and Larry Huber, public section executive director.
“The Public Section is pleased that in its opinion released yesterday the Court has provided that clarity as it pertains to the constitution and funding arrangements for public schools,” the statement reads.
Saskatchewan Public Schools will “continue to review the opinion” and work with the education minister and Saskatchewan separate schools, the statement said.
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