YORKTON, Sask. — Twelve weeks of hearing witnesses, the legal complaint brought by Good Spirit School Division (GSSD) against Christ the Teacher Catholic School Board (CTCSB) and the government of Saskatchewan ended July 15 with concluding arguments.
After years of delay with additions and expansions to the original complaint filed in 2005, the trial actually began Nov. 9, 2015, in Yorkton’s Queen’s Bench Court with Justice Donald H. Layh presiding, and was scheduled for five weeks. With several breaks, testimony ended July 6 and summation arguments began July 13, ending on Friday July 15.
It all began in 2003 with the closure of Theadore Public School and the subsequent establishment of St. Theadore Catholic School. In 2005, York School Division (now Good Spirit School Division) filed a complaint against Christ the Teacher Roman Catholic School Division and the government of Saskatchewan questioning whether non-Catholic students in Catholic schools should be funded by the government; additionally, that the Catholic school was established not to provide Catholic education to Catholic students but to circumvent the closure of the public school and, that it isn’t a Catholic school at all because the majority of students are not Catholic.
Information provided by the plaintiffs said it believes the purpose of separate school divisions is the education of the children of the faith minority that established the separate school division. and it supports their constitutional right to carry out that mandate. However, information provided by the SCSBA, which represents all eight Saskatchewan Catholic school divisions, said the original complaint about funding has been expanded and now includes a challenge of the constitutional right of faith-based separate schools in Saskatchewan. The impact, if successful, would threaten non-Catholic parents’ choice to send their children to a Catholic school, said the SCSBA. For that reason, the SCSBA supports the CTCSB in defending the action and the Public Section of the Saskatchewan School Board’s Association (SSBA) supports the GSSD action. The government is involved because the complaint challenges its funding of non-Catholic students in Catholic schools.
The summation arguments from all sides involved in the action quoted documents ranging from the United Nations Charter of Human Rights to the British North America Act which established Canada, to the 1901 ordinances attached to the BNA Act, the 1905 Saskatchewan and Alberta Acts and legislative decisions in Manitoba and Ontario.
Justice Layh occasionally questioned statements made by both plaintiff lawyers, government lawyers and lawyers for Christ the Teacher school division. The plaintiffs and the CTCSB each had a team of three lawyers and the government had a team of four.
Layh said he would not give a time when to expect his written decision.