Public Schools of Saskatchewan calls for broad discussion on education

Public Schools of Saskatchewan says the government should be looking at integrating non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools into the public system.
Public Schools of Saskatchewan says the government should be looking at integrating non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools into the public system. File photo

An organization representing public school boards in Saskatchewan is calling for a broad discussion on the future of education funding in the province.

Public Schools of Saskatchewan said the discussion is needed after last year’s ruling on provincial funding for non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools and the government’s reaction to the decision.

In the Theodore case, a judge ruled the Saskatchewan government’s funding of non-Catholic students at Catholic schools violated the state’s duty of religious neutrality under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, along with equality rights.

READ MORE: Sask. government halts Catholic school funding decision with notwithstanding clause

The association representing Catholic school boards launched an appeal.

Since then, the provincial government said it will invoke the notwithstanding clause of the charter to allow it to continue the funding practice.

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Norm Dray, the executive director of Public Schools of Saskatchewan, said the circumstances don’t warrant the use of the notwithstanding clause.

“Bill 89 essentially says that in order to maintain the current funding practice, our government is willing to ignore the two sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms identified in the court ruling but also three sections of the Human Rights Code of Canada,” Dray said in a statement.

“We do not believe the Theodore decision is the kind of extraordinary circumstances that warrants a government operating outside of the charter or the human rights code.”

WATCH BELOW: Coverage of the Theodore court case on school funding

Instead, the government should be looking at how to transition those non-Catholic students into the public system said Bonnie Hope, the public section chair.

“Now that we have a decision that clearly defines the mandate of separate schools in Saskatchewan, we believe resolution of this issue required nothing more than goodwill and attention to what’s in the best interests of students in the long term,” Hope stated.

“We need to talk about this now so our vision for the future of education in our province is clear.”

READ MORE: Sask. man who helped draft notwithstanding clause believes province is using it prematurely

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Public Schools of Saskatchewan also wants the legal process to reach its full conclusion and energies shifted to strengthening inclusive public education “in anticipation of the legal decision being upheld on appeal.”

Roughly 10,000 non-Catholic students currently attend Catholic schools in Saskatchewan.

The government has stated allowing the decision to stand could jeopardize funding for other faith-based schools.

Under the charter’s notwithstanding clause, a government can override portions of the charter for a five-year period.