Saskatchewan’s Catholic school boards are hoping to fundraise to pay for their legal battle over government funding for non-Catholic students in their system.
The Saskatchewan Catholic School Board Association is hoping its eight boards can raise $250,000 to cover legal fees for a federal appeal and a potential Supreme Court case.
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Over the next few months, the association said the boards will approach potential donors, including parents and local parishes.
The legal battle stems from an April decision by Justice Donald Layh, which ruled public funding of non-Catholic students in the Catholic school system is unconstitutional.
The province is also appealing the ruling and has said it will use the charter’s notwithstanding clause to maintain the status quo.
Catholic school board association president Paula Scott said the boards are fundraising to avoid taking money out of classrooms.
“Budgets are tight and there’s not a lot of money,” Scott told Saskatoon radio station CKOM.
“As Education Minister Don Morgan has indicated … he doesn’t like funding boards suing other boards.”
READ MORE: Judge rules Sask. government cannot fund non-Catholic students in Catholic schools
Layh ruled that provincial government funding of non-minority faith students attending separate schools infringes on religious neutrality and equality rights.
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.
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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.
“It’s incredibly important to us, our parents and especially our students,” Scott said, noting many students in the province would have to switch schools if the notwithstanding clause ever expired.
“It’d have a significant impact on them.”