Court battle over French education gets an extension

The Department of Education and the territory's French school board have been given more time to work out their differences over French education in the Yukon.

The Department of Education and the territory’s French school board have been given more time to work out their differences over French education in the Yukon.

The two sides had a case management conference this week in Yukon Supreme Court. They were given an extension until April 2016 to keep working on issues and try and avoid going back to court.

In 2009, the school board sued the Yukon government, claiming it hadn’t been meeting its obligation under section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects minority language rights.

The board was asking for the construction of a new high school, the ability to handle its own budget and the right to widen admission criteria for the school.

The Yukon Supreme Court sided with the school board, but in 2014 the Yukon Court of Appeal overturned the decision, noting a reasonable apprehension of bias from the trial judge.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. There, the judges confirmed what the appeal court said and ordered a new trial.

Both sides have been trying to avoid that ever since.

In August, a handful of committees were set up to try and work out the differences outside the courtroom.

“The settlement committee and the construction sub-committee members agree that additional time is required to continue discussions in the hopes of reaching a negotiated solution,” the two sides said in a joint press release on Tuesday.

“They also agree that progress is being made through this process, such as selecting temporary arrangements for French high school students in the Academie Parhelie program in a wing of Ecole Emilie Tremblay.”

Details like where the new school would be built haven’t been worked out yet.

In early May, the government announced the school board had picked the Riverdale skate park as a potential site.

Education Minister Doug Graham said no work would happen on the site until the skate park had been relocated elsewhere in Whitehorse.

After concerns about the location were raised by Whitehorse city council, a traffic study was ordered to look at how a new school would impact Riverdale’s future. Another report, this time on what infrastructure is under the site, is also underway.

Neither of those has been finished yet.

The construction committee planning for the new school has indicated that it would like to see the new school completed by the fall of 2018.

The Yukon government has spent more than $3 million on the court case to date.

Contact Ashley Joannou at