Catholic Education in Saskatchewan is about to undergo a major court challenge with litigation starting on November 9,2015 in Yorkton. The Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association (SCSBA) has created a one page document to help our partners understand the essence of the upcoming court case. This document is intended to provide basic information about the history of the Theodore litigation and some of the fundamental principles that Catholic School Divisions believe in. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Mr. Ken Loehndorf, Executive Director, SCSBA at (306) 445-7729. We ask you to please keep the wonderful gift of Catholic Education in your prayers as we enter into these challenging times.
Theodore Court Case History and Background
In 2005, York School Division (now Good Spirit School Division #204 (GSSD)) filed a legal complaint against what is now Christ the Teacher Roman Catholic School Division #212 (CTRCSD) and the Government of Saskatchewan.
The complaint alleges that the creation of the new school division after the closure of Theodore Public School did not meet the criteria of being a separate school—serving Catholics who are the minority religion in the region. They allege it was created merely as a means to prevent the school from closing and children being bussed to a nearby town, and they are challenging the legal status of the division.
Their argument is that per student grants paid to a Catholic school division for non-Catholic students is discriminatory against public schools under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Basically, that non-Catholic students should not be able to attend a Catholic school.
They are not disputing the validity of accepting per-student funding for Catholic students attending public schools.
Since 2005, GSSD has requested that the court make changes to the complaint, broadening the scope of the case and adding complaints. Now, in addition to challenging funding, it challenges the constitutional rights of minority-faith separate school divisions in Saskatchewan.
What Do Catholic school divisions believe?
Catholic school divisions recognize parents are the first teachers of their children and support the concept of parents having a choice to have their children educated in a Catholic atmosphere—whether the students or parents are Catholic or not. Accepting all students willing to learn from a Catholic perspective is consistent with the moral values we embrace as a faith community and that we instill in the children we teach.
The challenge by the public school division of the right of Catholic separate schools to admit non-Catholic students threatens the choice of parents, limiting the education options of non-Catholic parents for their children. This challenge is a later addition to the court claim and is contrary to the current legislation in this province.
We interpret the Saskatchewan Act in a way that requires funding to Catholic separate schools be comparable to that provided to public schools. Fair and equitable funding includes all students, regardless of their faith.
Catholic school divisions understand that the current funding provided by the province is within the constitutional authority of the province and is not subject to Charter challenge.
Catholic school divisions believe we have the right to decide to admit non-Catholic students and to determine the extent to which their admission allows us to maintain a truly authentic faith-based Catholic school system. Our faith is a journey that includes inquiry of non-Catholics and growth of existing members. This requires inclusion and a welcoming spirit.
This case will be going to trial on November 9, 2015 in Yorkton and is scheduled for five weeks. We ask that you please keep the wonderful gift of publicly-funded Catholic Education in your prayers during this crucial time.