Sask. government explores legal options in Catholic schools funding decision
A major bombshell was dropped last Thursday when a judge ruled that the province would no longer be allowed to provide funding for non-Catholic students to attend separate schools in Saskatchewan.
It has the potential to effect thousands of families in Saskatchewan. Now, the provincial government says it’s exploring every legal option possible to bring the recent court ruling to a halt.
In a 242-page decision, Justice Donald Layh stated the government was violating a section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In response, the province is preparing for battle.
WATCH: The Saskatchewan government is exploring all its legal options after a judge ruled the province can no longer fund non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools
Premier Brad Wall said the ruling “has really nothing to do with the interest of the student or the parent or the taxpayers.”
The decision is prompting the province to look at both constitutional and legislative options to intervene.
“I’ve asked the justice minister and the minister of education to look at every single option because this simply cannot stand,” Wall said.
The changes are set to come into effect June 2018, but the concern is if a fix is not found by then – the impact of the ruling could be catastrophic for schools in Saskatchewan.
“In that subsequent fall, you could have massively over-populated public schools and empty or near empty separate schools,” Wall said.
The premier went on to say if upheld, the viability of community schools in rural Saskatchewan could be at risk.
“Those who would normally go to a public school they send they’re kids there because to bus them another hour is not acceptable for families,” Wall stated.
The premier would not say what legal avenues are being explored by the province but made a promise.
“We’re going to take an approach of what is best for the student, what’s best for the family and see what do to try to successful maneuver around this court ruling,” he said.
According to Dwight Newman, a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law with the University of Saskatchewan, the province will likely have three options in order to reverse the ruling.
“One would be to appeal the decision and hope to get a different result from a different court, a higher court,” Newman said.
The second would be to use the notwithstanding clause, which allows provincial legislatures to override certain portions of the charter.
“A third would be to actually do some sort of constitutional amendment in order to allow for on-going attendance at Catholic schools by non-Catholic students through as I say a small constitutional amendment,” Newman said.
On Friday, Greg Chatlain with the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools released an open letter to the GSCS community.
“We remain a welcoming community, and our doors will continue to be open to all families who choose a faith-based education for their children – regardless of their religious affiliation,” Chatlain said.
According to the Education Minister Don Morgan, parents could be expected to pay as much as $8,000-$12,000 per child if the ruling sticks.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.