Catholic schools, province ordered to pay legal costs for court battle over funding for non-Catholic students
Cost of 12-year legal battle totals almost $950K
A Saskatchewan judge has ruled in favour of a public school board in Yorkton, Sask., seeking just under a million dollars to cover a litigation process spanning more than 12 years.
The case relates to Catholic schools receiving government funding for non-Catholic students.
Good Spirit School Division in Yorkton said they've spent almost $960,000 on the trial, including legal fees, expert fees and other costs.
Last week, Justice Donald Layh determined that 30 per cent of the cost will fall to Christ the Teacher Roman Catholic Separate School Division (CTT) and 70 per cent to the Government of Saskatchewan.
"We're pleased with Justice Layh's ruling," said Norm Dray, executive director for Public Schools of Saskatchewan. "This is just another stage in the legal process."
Lengthy legal history
The public division argued that the constitutional protection of Catholic schools does not include the right for those schools to receive government funding for non–Catholic students.
In April 2017, Justice Donald Layh ruled that funding "non-minority faith students" to attend Catholic schools was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the province's duty to practice religious neutrality. This was set to take effect in June 2018.
Waiting on appeal
The decision was appealed by both the province and the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association.
In 2017, the association was asking for donations to help fundraise $300,000 to pay for the appeal, "to ensure that money for this legal challenge will not impact our students in the classroom."
The province estimated as many as 10,000 students would be taken out of the separate school system and placed into the public system if the decision is upheld.
In November, the provincial government invoked the Charter's notwithstanding clause which allows the province to create laws that will operate in spite of (or "notwithstanding") some charter rights that the laws appear to violate.
In the most recent judgement, Layh said the provincial government must support their argument that continued funding of non-minority faith students at Catholic schools is justifiable.
With files from CBC's Janani Whitfield