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Provincial funding for non-Catholics attending separate schools violates Charter: judge
Published Thursday, April 20, 2017 6:54PM CST
Last Updated Friday, April 21, 2017 1:56PM CST
A Saskatchewan judge has ruled provincial funding for non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In his decision released Thursday, Justice Donald Layh ruled that provincial government funding of non-minority faith students attending separate schools infringes on religious neutrality and equality rights.
The judge acknowledged his decision would have considerable repercussions in the province, so his ruling is stayed until June 30, 2018.
In 2004, Yorkdale School Division, now Good Spirit School Division, closed down its kindergarten-to-Grade 8 school in the town of Theodore because of declining enrolment. The division planned to bus students to the community of Springside, located 30 kilometers away.
In response, a local group created its own Catholic school division and opened St. Theodore Roman Catholic School. That prompted Good Spirit School Division to launch a lawsuit.
The suit claimed the creation of the new school division was not to serve Catholics in the community, but rather to prevent the students from being bussed to a neighbouring town.
Education Minister Don Morgan responded to the ruling Friday.
“The separate school divisions would see a large portion or significant portion of their funding drop," Morgan said.
"Those students, when they went into the public school system, the public school system probably would have an incredibly difficult time managing that influx.”
Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association says it's disappointed with the decision, and the impact it will have on parents and students.
The association is reviewing the ruling and is considering a possible appeal.
Public Schools of Saskatchewan says the ruling provides clarity on public funding for the education of non-minority faith students in separate schools.
"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 organization said in a statement Friday.
"Saskatchewan Public Schools will continue to review the opinion and work with the Minister of Education and Saskatchewan separate schools on next steps."