Non-Catholic parents say they should have choice to send kids to Sask. Catholic schools

Regina mother Jennifer Yasinowski says a court decision that non-Catholic students cannot attend Catholic schools would represent a disappointing move toward segregation.

Province argues in court it should be able to pay for non-Catholic students to attend Catholic schools

Jennifer Yasinowski is a Regina mother who sends her children to a Catholic school, even though the family is not Catholic. She says it will be disappointing if a court ruling takes away some parents' ability to choose a Catholic education for their kids. (CBC News)

Some non-Catholic parents in Saskatchewan say there are good reasons for the government to continue to provide funding for their children to go to Catholic schools.

Regina mother Jennifer Yasinowski says Catholic schools have been a place where her children have learned not just Christian and Catholic teachings, but about other cultures and faiths too.

"My kids are more open, more interested, more tolerant of others because they have been taught about all these other faiths and cultures," she said.

"It's just a part of their education."

Jennifer Yasinowski, centre, with her family. Her children attend a Catholic high school in Regina. Isaak and Dwayne Kehler are pictured in the back, while Yasinowski's daughters, Sarah and Hannah, are seen at front. (Submitted by Jennifer Yasinowski)

Yasinowski says it will be disappointing if a court decides that the province can't fund non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools, as she believes it would be segregating one faith group.

"And as a parent, I would hope I would be able to choose whatever school I want my children to go to — Catholic, non-Catholic or even a Protestant [school]."

The province is currently arguing in Saskatchewan's Court of Appeal that it should be able to pay for non-Catholic students to attend Catholic schools.

That fight stems from a landmark 2017 court ruling that said funding "non-minority faith students" in Catholic schools violates both the Charter of Rights and "the state's duty of religious neutrality."

Thousands of students attend Catholic schools, and booting out non-Catholic students would overwhelm public schools, said Yasinowski, calling the original decision "short-sighted."

"Why can't we just be together and tolerant?"

Choice shouldn't be taken away, says parent

Tina Maki is another non-Catholic parent who chose to send her kids to a Catholic school, saying she's found they have learned not only about Christianity, but about other faiths and cultures in their education.

"I'm not in agreement with funding being withdrawn from any institution that has … any kind of faith as their value system," she said, pointing to the controversy over the federal government's contentious summer-jobs program that required groups to express support for "individual human rights in Canada" — including reproductive rights and equality of LGBTQ Canadians.

People should have choice about where they send their children, whether that's an Islamic school or a Catholic school or elsewhere, she said.

"Faith is in an integral part of people's values. So sending your kids to an environment where that is part of the environment is something that can be very important to people."

Saskatchewan is one of three provinces with a separate school system and one of five that pays for students to attend independent schools, with the government standing firm in its commitment to supporting independent schools.

The majority of those schools are religious-based. Depending on the criteria they meet, the schools receive between 50 and 80 per cent of the average per-student funding.

With files from Bonnie Allen and Nichole Huck