Top court won’t hear school case

The Supreme Court of Canada won’t hear a case involving Ecole Boreale, a fracophone school in Hay River.

The Supreme Court of Canada won’t hear a case involving Ecole Boreale, a fracophone school in Hay River.

The Supreme Court of Canada won’t hear a case involving Ecole Boreale and its administration’s fight to get the territorial government to provide additional teaching space.

The top court issued a press release Oct. 29 stating it wouldn’t hear several cases, including the one brought by the francophone school authority.

The Commission scolaire francophone argued its school with more than 80 students in Hay River, Ecole Boreale, ought to include a gymnasium, shop facilities, a science lab and other additions.

The case went to trial in NWT Supreme Court, resulting in a victory for the commission.

The NWT Court of Appeal overturned that ruling in January, which led to the board appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The press release did not state why the court would not.

The case also involved whether the francophone group or the government has control over admissions policy. As it stands, the GNWT does. The initial trial found a ministerial directive limiting enrolment to be unconstitutional although that was overturned in the appeal, The Hub reported earlier this year.

The court’s action, or lack of action, brought mixed reactions last week from the sides involved.

“We’re very, very disappointed of course,” said commission superintendent Yvonne Careen on Oct. 30.

“I’m happy that this is finally concluded,” said Guy Regimbald, one of the lawyers with Gowlings law firm working on the case for the GNWT.

The government had argued given the small number of students, there were adequate facilities provided and that it had authority over admissions policy.

“In essence … the government’s case was vindicated,” Regimbald said, noting that before the case went to trial, the GNWT did build three additional classrooms.

However, Careen said the government still has to do more.

“They’re still responsible for providing equal opportunity to students of francophone schools,” she said.

Not hearing the case, she said, appears to be because the court has already ruled on three francophone rights cases with similar elements recently.

The Hub reported in May the court had ruled on a Vancouver case that minority-language schools have to be provided the resources to have equivalent facilities relative to nearby majority-language schools.

It couldn’t be determined by press time what, if any, legal bearing that case may have on the situation at Ecole Boreale.

But Careen pointed to its significance, adding the work isn’t over to try and get equal facilities for students.

Starting this week, she plans to contact the GNWT to start talks about getting the specialized classrooms they’ve sought.

“We’re optimistic that the government will work with us,” she said.

Tami Johnson, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, stated in an e-mail she couldn’t comment on issues to be raised at future meetings.

Careen said meetings with parents to explain the implications of the court not hearing the case will take place soon.

In the Supreme Court’s press release, it stated the two sides in the case would pay their own costs of bringing it to the top court.

The Court of Appeal, in overturning the trial decision, had placed costs for both sides of that portion of the case on the commission.