Catholic school funding not protected by Yukon Act

The Yukon government could get rid of religious school funding without amending either the Yukon Act or the Education Act.

The Yukon government could get rid of religious school funding without amending either the Yukon Act or the Education Act.

It would have to end a 51-year agreement with the Catholic Episcopal Corporation that was signed in 1962 when the corporation sold two of its private schools – Christ the King Elementary and Christ the King high school – to the Yukon, and the Department of Education began running them with public money.

That agreement – and not the Yukon Act or the Education Act – provides the government’s obligation to fund Catholic schools, explained Tom Ullyett, assistant deputy minister for the Department of Justice.

“The Education Act also doesn’t explicitly protect separate funding. It only refers to the 1962 agreement, saying that it is still in effect. If there was to be a change in funding, the parties – I’ll say the minister and the bishop, but formally it is the commissioner and the Episcopal corporation – would have to go to that agreement and use that as their basis for discussions about funding,” Ullyett said.

The Yukon Act does mention a separate school system for the territory, but not a publicly funded one. The act says that religious minority “ratepayers” may set up their own school system – whether Catholic of Protestant – but they would have to pay for it themselves. That hasn’t been happening since the early 1900s, when the Yukon government first started giving grants to the Catholic Church to run its schools.

“The Yukon Act, you can just sort of push that aside because it describes a model of funding that hasn’t been in place since modern times, and of course it’s an act of Parliament, and so on,” Ullyett said.

Like most agreements, the 1962 document does not provide terms that give either party the power to unilaterally end the agreement. Ullyett compared the agreement to a rental contract.

“Generally speaking, though, with any contract, if there has been a fundamental breach of the contract, generally under contract law that does allow one party to say, ‘OK, the agreement is over,’” Ullyett said.

A fundamental breach isn’t a simple disagreement or even a violation of the contract. Ullyett explained that a fundamental breach would be something that goes right to the core intent of the document. He would not speculate about what might constitute a fundamental breach in this case. He did say that the 1962 agreement contains commitments by both parties to abide by all territorial and federal laws.

“Those are two pretty important clauses. The parties have agreed between them that they will observe the laws, whether it’s federal laws like the Human Rights Act or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or whether it’s decisions of the courts. This is what (Education Minister Scott Kent) has referred to, that the church’s policy has to be on-side with the law because that’s what they agreed to in 1962 and he wants to make sure that that is still the case. Those are important clauses in the agreement, there’s no question about it,” Ullyett said.

Last week, Kent published an open letter to Bishop Gary Gordon, who is responsible for Whitehorse Catholic schools. In it, Kent said that Vanier Catholic Secondary School must fall in line with departmental policy on sexual orientation, and that current church teachings are likely a violation of Yukon and federal law.

Those teachings came under fire earlier this month when parents complained that a policy document written by the bishop and available publicly on Vanier’s website was discriminatory towards gays, calling homosexuality a “disorder” and homosexual acts an “intrinsic moral evil.” The policy also bans gay-straight alliances because the church doesn’t condone using words like gay, lesbian, or queer.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council will vote on the second reading of the Official Community Plan amendment on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Future area of Whistle Bend considered by council

Members set to vote on second reading for OCP change

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read