Sask. to invoke notwithstanding clause after Catholic school ruling: Wall
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says his government will invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms after a recent court ruling banned funding non-Catholic students in Catholic schools.
If the ruling stands, 10,000 non-Catholic students would be forced out of Catholic schools across the province, the government said in a news release Monday.
The government says the ruling could also risk provincial funding of 26 other faith-based schools, including Luther College, Regina Christian School, Saskatoon Christian School and Huda School.
“We support school choice including public, separate and faith-based schools,” Wall said in the release.
“We will defend school choice for students and parents. By invoking the notwithstanding clause we are protecting the rights of parents and students to choose the schools that work best for their families, regardless of their religious faith.”
Section 33 of the Charter gives provincial legislatures the authority to override certain portions of the Charter for a five-year term. Invoking the notwithstanding clause requires an act of the Legislative Assembly.
“I have asked the Ministers of Education and Justice to begin preparing legislation to invoke the notwithstanding clause to protect choice in our school system,” Wall said.
“We wanted to announce this now to provide clarity and provide parents with the assurance that they will be able to continue to choose the kind of school they want their children to attend.”
The move is in response to an April 20 Court of Queen’s Bench ruling on a legal challenge by the Good Spirit School Division.
The dispute started in 2003 when the 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 its 42 students to the community of Springside, 17 kilometres 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 claiming the creation of the new school division was not to serve Catholics in the community, but rather to prevent the students from being bused to a neighbouring town.
Last week, the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association said it plans to appeal Justice Donald Layh’s ruling that the government must stop funding non-minority faith students attending separate schools. The judge stayed his ruling until June 30, 2018.