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Saskatchewan can't give Catholic schools money for non-Catholic students: court

YORKTON, Sask. — The Saskatchewan government doesn't have the legal right to give Catholic schools funding for students who aren't Catholic, a judge ruled Thursday.

Justice Donald Layh's ruling stems from a lawsuit over the province's policy of funding separate schools based solely on student enrolment without regard to the religious affiliation of the students.

The dispute involved the public Good Spirit School Division, the Christ the Teacher Catholic Separate School Division and the provincial government.

In 2004, Yorkdale School Division, now Good Spirit School Division, closed down its kindergarten-to-Grade 8 school in the town of Theodore because of declining enrolment. The division planned to bus students to the community of Springside, located 30 kilometres away.

In response, a local group created its own Catholic school division and opened St. Theodore Roman Catholic School. That prompted Good Spirit School Division to launch a lawsuit claiming the creation of the new school division was not to serve Catholics in the community, but rather to prevent the students from being bussed to a neighbouring town.

Layh's ruling noted there is a growing number of non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools in the province.

He said provincial government funding of non-minority faith students attending separate schools infringes on religious neutrality and equality rights.

He said his judgment will cause significant repercussions in the province but says his ruling won't have to be enforced until June 30 of next year.

The Saskatchewan government declined to comment on the ruling, saying it had to review the decision first.

(CTV Regina, The Canadian Press)

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