The Saskatchewan government is invoking the notwithstanding clause over the recent Catholic school court ruling.
In an April 21 decision, Justice Donald Layh’s ruled it was unconstitutional for the province to pay for non-Catholic students to attend Catholic schools.
The notwithstanding clause allows provinces to override sections of the Charter of Rights and freedoms for a limited time, which has the effect of nullifying any legal decision.
The court ruling would force up to 10,000 students to move schools and has an impact on other faith-based schools such as Luther College, Regina Christian School and Huda School.
“I just want parents to have assurance that as long as we have the privilege of forming government in the province we will do everything we can to protect parental choice,” Wall argued.
“To protect the system that we have now, which is obviously not perfect, no system is, but we like the fact there is school choice, we like the fact we can provide support for faith-based education as well.”
Invoking the notwithstanding clause requires an act of the legislative assembly.
“I have asked the Ministers of Education and Justice to begin preparing legislation to invoke the notwithstanding clause to protect choice in our school system,” Wall said.
“We wanted to announce this now to provide clarity and provide parents with the assurance that they will be able to continue to choose the kind of school they want their children to attend.”
The Layh decision came about following a 12-year Charter dispute between the public Good Spirit School Division (GSSD) and Christ the Teacher School Division (CTSD), a Catholic board.
CTSD was formed when the Theodore Public School, northwest of Yorkton, was closed. Many parents, most of whom were non-Catholic, decided to keep their children at the school rather than have them bused the 15 kilometres to the public school in Springside.
GSSD filed a legal complaint in 2005, alleging it was against the Charter for CTSD to get funding for non-Catholic students when GSSD was acting as the public board in the area.
The notwithstanding clause has been used just four times since its inception in the 1980s. That same decade it was used by Saskatchewan over back-to-work labour legislation.
The Saskatchewan Catholics School Boards Association has already announced its intention to appeal the decision.