Saskatchewan Premiere Brad Wall says he will invoke the notwithstanding classes of the Charter of Rights to override a court ruling that threatened cause layoffs and possible Catholic school closure in the province. Photo courtesy of Daniel Paquet, Wikimedia Commons

Saskatchewan Premier overrides court ruling on Catholic school funding

By  Catholic Register Special
  • May 2, 2017

REGINA, Sask. – In a victory for Catholic education, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said he will invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights to override a court ruling that threatened to cause layoffs and possible Catholic school closures in the province.

He made the announcement May 1, 11 days after Queen’s Bench Justice Donald Layh ruled that the province was violating a section of the Charter of Rights by funding non-Catholic students who attend Catholic schools.

If allowed to stand, Wall said that decision would drive some 10,000 students out of Catholic schools and it would threaten provincial funding at 26 other faith-based schools.

Invoking the notwithstanding clause sets aside the court ruling for an initial period of five years, which can be extended indefinitely at the government’s option.

“We support school choice, including public, separate and faith-based schools,” Wall said in a press 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.”

Although the court decision gave the government one year to stop funding non-Catholics at Catholic schools, the premier said he moved quickly “to provide clarity” for parents who were reeling at the prospect of having to find new schools for their children. Wall also said the government had no records to indicate a student’s religion and had no interest in questioning families about their religion.

The notwithstanding clause will assure the status quo in Saskatchewan, but Wall’s decision will have no bearing outside the province. Catholic education is publicly funded in Alberta and Ontario. It remains unclear if the original court decision will have future ramifications in those provinces.

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association supported Wall’s decision.

“We are very pleased,” said OCSTA president Patrick Daly. “The outcome is clearly in the best interests of students and families in Saskatchewan.”

The Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association had an appeal of the court decision in the works prior to Wall’s announcement.

“Parents have obviously endorsed Catholic education by entrusting Catholic schools with the education of their children,” the SCSBA said in a statement. “And we’ll do everything we can to ensure that choice for faith-based education in Saskatchewan remains for future generations.”

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