Canadian Premier Will Override Court’s Ruling on School Choice

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
Font Size:

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said Monday he will use the notwithstanding clause to override a court order that could be catastrophic for school choice, CBC News reports.

The notwithstanding clause is part of the Canadian constitution and allows a provincial or federal government to override a court order — all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada — that might strike down legislation on the grounds that it violates the Canadian Charter of Rights.

It has rarely been invoked and the exception has been for education issues.

The Court of Queen’s Bench ruled last week that the provincial government could no longer pay for non-Catholics to attend Catholic schools.

The implications of that decision could well affect all non-pubic schools.

“We support school choice, including public, separate and faith-based schools,” said Wall.

“We will defend school choice for students and parents. By invoking the notwithstanding clause we are protecting the rights of parents and students to choose the schools that work best for their families, regardless of their religious faith.”

The provincial government maintains that the court ruling would create an exodus of 10,000 non-Catholic students into the public school system who are currently attending Catholic schools. It also says the decision hits at funding for other faith-based schools like Luther College, the Regina Christian School and the Huda School for Muslim students.

Interim New Democratic Party leader NDP leader Trent Wotherspoon says he is willing to support an appeal of the decision and is contemplating the use of the notwithstanding clause.

“I think a government worth its salt needs to make sure it’s assessing its tools, and this is one those tools,” he said.

Wall has considered using the notwithstanding clause in the past but has withdrew. The constitutional mechanism could have been used to upend many decisions by the un-elected supreme court that have forced controversial social policy on elected legislators.

Follow David on Twitter