November 08, 2017

Notwithstanding Clause Invoked to Protect Parents' and Students' Rights

The Government of Saskatchewan introduced legislation today, invoking the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to protect parents’ choice in where they send their children to school.

The new legislation will maintain the current funding model that allows the government to fund students attending public or Catholic separate schools, regardless of their religious affiliation.

This legislation is in response to the April 2017, Court of Queen’s Bench ruling that determined it is unconstitutional to fund non-Catholic students to attend Catholic separate schools.  The court ruling is set to come into force on June 30, 2018, and would likely result in significant disruption to the education sector.

“The current system has served us well for more than 100 years, and parents and students wish to preserve it,” Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre said.  “This legislation will provide certainty for families so they can continue to attend Catholic separate schools.”

The legislation introduced today invokes section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to require all provincial funding for schools to be provided under The Education Act, 1995 without any distinction based on religion, notwithstanding sections 2(a) and 15 of the Charter and sections 4, 12 and 13 of the Human Rights Code.

Both the Government of Saskatchewan and Christ the Teacher Roman Catholic Separate School Division have filed appeals on this ruling.  The notwithstanding clause is being invoked now, so parents and students can be assured they will continue to be funded to attend their school, without having the uncertainty of waiting for the outcome of an appeal.