The Yukon government and the Commission scolaire francophone du Yukon have reached a settlement regarding a lawsuit dating back to 2009.
Education Minister Tracy McPhee said both parties worked together well to resolve issues outside of the courtroom.
“All parties worked really hard to make sure this didn’t go back to court,” McPhee said.
In 2009, the commission took the government to court regarding issues in French-language education in the territory. This litigation made its way through the various courts in the territory before reaching the Supreme Court of Canada in 2015.
McPhee said that when the Yukon Liberals were elected in 2016, they worked with the settlement committee to resolve any outstanding issues in this dispute.
The cornerstone of this case is the French language high school, currently under construction.
McPhee said construction was ahead of schedule when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, pushing the completion date back to the original goal of winter 2020-2021.
Other issues included in the settlement are sharing facilities between the French high school and the nearby schools in Riverdale as well as installing a modular classroom on Ecole Emilie Tremblay. The modular classroom will be used while the new high school is under construction.
The two parties have been working together on admission principles for French-language schools.
The government earlier delegated authority on admissions to the commission in 2016.
The two sides worked on defining the authority and responsibilities of the government and commission regarding French education, as well as a funding formula for French education.
McPhee said it is now time to make sure the settlement components are in place as both parties have signed on. She noted that a motion is before the courts to withdraw the lawsuit.
“We’re really pleased to have this moving on and having some certainty for our French-first language community,” McPhee said.
Commission president Jean-Sebastien Blais and vice-president Vincent Larochelle gave their thoughts on the settlement.
Blais said he feels grateful for the settlement, in large part due to clarifications on the roles and responsibilities of both the government and the commission.
He hopes this is a sign that the government respects francophone education rights.
Larochelle clarified that although the lawsuit has been active since 2009, the last five years have been more about negotiations rather than arguing in court.
Blais said this settlement can be implemented with the current education act, something he feels is important because the commission wanted the government to delegate any and all possible powers to the commission.
He said the commission negotiated ownership of the commission’s buildings. Larochelle explained that through negotiations, both parties agreed that it would be beneficial to keep all the commission’s building under the ownership of Public Works.
Blais said this settlement does not change the status of any employees and respects the collective agreement. The settlement has a spirit of collaboration, he said, and can help mediate if there are future disputes.
“The continued collaboration and cooperation between the Commission scolaire and Department of Education is the key to the success of this settlement in the future,” Larochelle said.
On admissions, Blais said the commission’s trustees have a committee to review applicants. There is a quota in place — up to five per cent of the student population may be Anglophone.
He said this would go a long way for French language education in the future.
“I am grateful for that,” Blais said.
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This story has been updated. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that a miminum of five per cent of the student population must be Anglophone.