By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
A court challenge threatening the ability of Catholic schools in Saskatchewan to accept non-Catholic students has ended.
The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed the Good Spirit (Public) School Division’s bid to appeal the Theodore case to the Supreme Court.
The Feb. 25, 2021 decision confirms the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal’s unanimous decision that overturned a 2017 ruling that sought to limit public funding for students who choose to attend Catholic schools in Saskatchewan but lack a Catholic baptismal certificate.
“We are relieved and reassured by this decision, and we believe it can be considered a victory for both religious and parental rights and freedoms,” said Tom Fortosky, Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association in a Feb. 25 statement.
“This decision definitively confirms what we have said and believed all along: parents know what is best for their children and they should be able to choose Catholic, faith- based education if that is what they want—no matter their reasons, faith backgrounds or traditions,” Fortosky said.
In a message to parents published on the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools website, GSCS Board Chair Diane Boyko said: “I speak for our entire Board of Education when I say thank you for entrusting us with your child’s education. Despite some uncertainty for some of you, you made a choice. We are both humbled and encouraged that so many of you continue to want Catholic education for your family.”
Boyko added: “I also thank all of the donors who generously gave to fund the appeal. Because of you, all eight Catholic boards in the province were able to keep education funds in the classroom and not divert them to cover costly courtroom expenses.”
Background information on the Theodore case can be found at: OpenCatholicEducation.ca
The court case dates back to 2005 when the York School Division (now Good Spirit) filed a complaint against what is now Christ the Teacher School Division. The Catholic division was created after the public school was closed in the town of Theodore in central Saskatchewan. due to a lack of enrolment. Its 42 students were to be bused 17 kilometres to a school in Springside until local parents rallied to save the school by making it part of the Catholic system, renaming it St. Theodore Roman Catholic School.
Saskatchewan is one of only three provinces where Catholic education rights are enshrined in the constitution, along with Ontario and Alberta.
“A significant amount of time and money has been spent on this court case, and we are pleased that we can all refocus our energy and resources on our students and families to build upon the exemplary model of education we have in this province,” said SCSBA Executive Director Tom Fortosky.