Supreme Court dismisses application for appeal from Good Spirit School Division

The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed an application from the Good Spirit School Division for leave to appeal a case which would stop the province from funding non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools.

The dismissal confirms a March 2020 decision by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal that unanimously overturned an April 2017 ruling which sought to limit public funding for non-Catholic students choosing to attend Catholic schools in the province.

“We’re very grateful for the decision, very relieved that now the case is at an end and we can get down to doing what we want to do, which is educate children,” said Tom Fortosky, executive director of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association. 

The SCC’s decision this morning brought the case to a close after 19 years. 

“We were cautiously optimistic, but you never know,” said Fortosky, “If the Supreme Court of Canada felt that they wanted to hear the case for whatever reason, they certainly could have.” 

In 2003, Yorkdale School Division – now the Good Spirit School Division – planned to bus students to a nearby community after a public school closed due to declining enrollment. In response, a local group created its own Catholic School Division and opened St. Theodore Roman Catholic School.

This prompted a lawsuit to be launched by the Good Spirit School Division – which is a public division – claiming the school was only created to prevent students from having to travel.

“The original intention and the intention all the way along is to clarify the mandate of Catholic schools,” said Norm Dray, executive director of Public Schools of Saskatchewan.

Public Schools of Saskatchewan believes Catholic Schools should be to educate Catholic students in a Catholic environment, and that non-Catholics should attend well-funded public schools. 

“We’re deeply disappointed that the court didn’t want to hear our case, we feel we had a good case that should’ve been heard,” said Dray. 

In a statement, the Christ the Teacher Roman Catholic Separate School Division said it is “relieved and reassured” by the SCC’s decision.

“We believe is can be considered a victory for both religious and parental rights and freedoms,” read the statement.

Premier Scott Moe said in a statement he and his government “strongly supports parents and students having choice in education.”

“With today’s news that the Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed the leave for appeal to challenge this decision, we are pleased that we can continue to rely on the previous ruling which provides certainty for thousands of families in our province,” continued the statement.