The Catholic school system has undergone one of its largest expansions in provincial history. All funding has been paid for by the province at public expense for the schools. In a province mostly consisting of some Catholics and then everyone else, about 32% to 68%, this seems unfair to the citizenry of Saskatchewan (Statistics Canada, 2005).¹
A court order in April declared the province could no longer fund non-Catholic students in Catholic schools. The Premier, Brad Wall, used the notwithstanding clause to overrule the decision in order further instantiate Catholic education in the province.
“Despite some initial fears that the ruling could result in Catholic school closures, the opposite is occurring. Parents, free to choose a school system for their children, are choosing Catholic,” Siedler said (2017).
Within days of the decision in April, Premier Wall said that his government would use their constitutional power to protect the Catholic separate publicly funded educational system – in a province with only 1/3 of the population as Catholics, one might add.
The Chair of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, Diane Boyko, described the results of further Catholic school growth as a sign of the trust in the Catholic educational system on behalf of families of all faiths in the province (Ibid.).
Siedler goes on to reference the case in Alberta:
It’s a different story in Alberta. Some high-profile Albertans, including former education minister Dave King, have used the Saskatchewan court ruling to campaign for the abolishment of Catholic divisions.
King’s cause has been joined by former Edmonton Catholic school trustee Patricia Grell, who has called for the merger of the public and Catholic systems.
I have talked to Grell (Jacobsen, 2017a; Jacobsen, 2017b). This is true; she believes in the merger of the school systems. Why? She has said, “I do not believe that Catholic schools are any better academically, socially or even spiritually than their public counterparts” (Siedler, 2017).
But there’s a background, too, founded in hard experience and courageous campaigning as a trustee in the Edmonton Catholic School Board in Ward 71 (Jacobsen, 2017b).
With declining relevance, the Roman Catholic Church seems to work to entrench more in the public, especially the minds of the young, the Saskatchewan case with the use of the notwithstanding clause appears to be another example of it.
¹Catholics comprise only 305,390/963,150 of Saskatchewan’s population.
Jacobsen, S.D. (2017b, October 15). An Interview with Patricia Grell, B.Sc., M.Div.. Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/2017/10/15/an-interview-with-patricia-grell-b-sc-m-div/.
Jacobsen, S.D. (2017a, October 19). Question with Patricia Grell, B.Sc., M.Div.: Trustee, Edmonton Catholic School Board (Ward 71). Retrieved from https://medium.com/humanist-voices/question-with-patricia-grell-b-sc-m-div-trustee-edmonton-catholic-school-board-ward-71-76ffb4700d1b.
Siedler, R. (2017, October 24). Saskatchewan opens nine new Catholic schools. Retrieved from https://www.catholicregister.org/item/26233-saskatchewan-opens-nine-new-catholic-schools.
Statistics Canada. (2005, January 25). Population by religion, by province and territory (2001 Census) (Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan). Retrieved from https://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/demo30b-eng.htm.