May 2, 2016 3:10 pm
Updated: May 2, 2016 8:15 pm

Alberta Catholic school district spent $367,000 on legal battle with transgender teacher

WATCH ABOVE: They're your tax dollars, so should they be used in a legal fight against a transgender teacher who was fired from his job? As Vinesh Pratap reports, a local advocacy group has new details on how much one such fight has cost so far.

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EDMONTON – Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools has so far spent $367,000 of taxpayer dollars on a legal battle with a teacher who was fired after undergoing gender-reassignment surgery.

Progress Alberta got the number after making a request to the school board under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

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“I think taxpayers have a right to know how this school board is spending their money,” Progress Alberta’s Duncan Kinney said. “That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of money that could be going to students. That’s a lot of money that could be going to teachers.”

Jan Buterman was removed from the Greater St. Albert School Division’s teacher list in 2008 because the gender-reassignment surgery was not in line with Catholic values, according to a letter sent by the school district to Buterman.

“No one has ever investigated my case,” Buterman told Global News. “No one has ever sat down as a tribunal to say here’s what happened.”

READ MORE: Transgender teacher’s complaint to be heard

Buterman filed a complaint in 2009, which the school district successfully challenged before the province’s human rights commission. The FOIP release shows the school district spent $63,878 in 2009 on the case.

“I totally get why that seems like a lot of money because it is a lot of money on a point that shouldn’t be confusing,” Buterman said. “For some years in advance of me getting this job, it was already clear in writing that one’s gender identity was not something that one could be discriminated against.”

In 2011, Buterman turned down a $78,000 cash settlement offer from the publicly funded school district because it would have required him to keep quiet and drop his human rights complaint.

In 2014, a chief of the commission overturned the 2009 decision. The school district sought a judicial review, but Justice Sheila Greckol of Court of Queen’s Bench dismissed the district’s request.

Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools Superintendent David Keonhane released the following statement to Global News on Monday:

“This is a personnel matter that is currently being appealed as of April 14th to the Alberta Court of Appeal, therefore we are not in a position to comment.”

Buterman said he has no plans to give up his fight to appeal what he calls his wrongful dismissal.

“We see in all kinds of struggles for rights in the world, present and historical. We see that whenever progress is made, there’s also a great deal of resistance to that progress.”

“The fact that this case has gone on for so long with no resolution in sight is really a travesty of justice,” Kinney said.

With files from Vinesh Pratap.

 

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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