'This simply cannot stand': Premier says all options on table to fight Catholic school ruling

Saskatchewan government appealing ruling on Catholic school funding

Premier Brad Wall says the recent court ruling that the province should not be funding non-Catholic students to attend Catholic schools "is not good news" for students in Saskatchewan.

He told reporters Monday he has asked the ministers of justice and education to look at every option, including legal, constitutional and legislative options, to fight the application of the decision.

"This simply cannot stand," he said.

"Consider the implications here … you could have massively overpopulated public schools and empty or near-empty separate schools. You could actually risk the viability of community schools because there's a number of people who will choose to send their students to the school closest to them."

In 2005, the Good Spirit School Division No. 204 filed a lawsuit against the Christ the Teacher Roman Catholic Separate School Division No. 212 and the Government of Saskatchewan over the creation of a Catholic school in the village of Theodore, Sask., after the community's public school was closed.

Last Thursday, Saskatchewan Justice Donald Layh ruled that the provincial government must stop paying for non-Catholic students to attend Catholic schools in the province.

Layh wrote that funding "non-minority faith students" in Catholic schools violates both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and "the state's duty of religious neutrality."

'The last thing we need to do is resurrect this whole separate school question'

"We want to give parents as much choice as possible," Wall told reporters. "That's where we will stand on this issue and we're going to work to be able to preserve that stance."

He called the court ruling a serious decision with national implications.

"The last thing we need to do is resurrect this whole separate school question. I think things work quite well right now in the province," he said, citing regions where public and separate boards are working together to build joint-use schools.

"This has really nothing to do with what's in the interest of the student or the parent or the taxpayers."

Wall reiterated that the ruling proves the need for the amendments proposed in Bill 63 that would limit the ability of school divisions to sue one another.

"We got to this ruling because one school board decided to sue another school board. They used taxpayer dollars to do it. If they were using any money since 2009 when we changed the local tax system, they were using provincial tax dollars to sue one another to get to this point. This is why we want Bill 63."

The premier would not say if the province planned to appeal the ruling but said all options are being considered.

Catholic school boards tell CBC News they need to review the ruling, but they are seriously considering an appeal.