Court of Appeal overturns Theodore ruling on Catholic schools

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has overturned a 2017 Queen’s Bench court ruling that had limited public funding to Catholic school students who lacked a Catholic baptismal certificate.

The case, known as the "Theodore case" had been one closely watched by school divisions across the province. It involved St. Theodore School, a Catholic school in the Theodore Roman Catholic School Division, located in Theodore in the eastern part of the province.

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The school had previously been in the Good Spirit School Division and was scheduled to close, but was saved when a new Catholic school division was formed in that area.

A point of contention was that the majority of the students at the new Catholic-division school were non-Roman Catholic. A legal dispute then ensued, and a decision eventually came down from Justice Donald Layh in 2017. He ruled the province violated the Charter of Rghts by funding non-Catholic students in the Catholic division.

That ruling was appealed, and that ruling is now reversed in the Court of Appeal, however the Good Spirit School Division could still choose to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.     

Tom Fortosky, executive director of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association, has issued a statement commending the court’s ruling

“Today, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the appeal of the Theodore case in a unanimous decision.

“This decision overturns the 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, reassured and grateful for this decision. Even though the Government of Saskatchewan had assured us they would do whatever is necessary to protect your choice for your child’s education, this ruling 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.

He added: “A significant amount of time and money has been spent on this court case, and we are hopeful 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. However, Good Spirit (Public) School Division does have an option to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to consider the case.”

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