F.H. Collins dismissed for French high school relocation

The old F.H. Collins school is not an option anymore for temporarily relocating French high school students while a new school is built, Education Minister Doug Graham said.

The old F.H. Collins school is not an option anymore for temporarily relocating French high school students while a new school is built, Education Minister Doug Graham said.

Currently high school students share Ecole Emilie-Tremblay with elementary students in cramped conditions.

Last May, parents petitioned the French school board, asking that an interim solution be found while a new high school is built.

“This is not something we’re going to impose on the (board), we’re trying to work out a solution that works out for everyone,” said Graham.

A month later the board told parents it was considering the old F.H. Collins school since students there are scheduled to move to a new building in January.

The decision not to use the old school was mutual, the Department of Education said.

The school board wouldn’t confirm that, only saying it would soon present all the options available.

The department said the school board decided the old high school wasn’t an option anymore because the government could not commit to a September 2017 deadline for building the new high school.

The school board has repeatedly expressed that the relocation should only be temporary.

On Wednesday, Ludovic Gouaillier, the spokesperson for the board, raised the issue of the absence of a firm deadline.

The government can’t guarantee the timeline, as it has to be approved for next year’s capital budget and by the city for a construction permit, said Graham.

The minister said there is a number of options available, including Porter Creek Secondary School.

This comes two days after the announcement of a settlement committee struck between the department and the school board, a last ditch effort to avoid going back to court.

The committee will deal with some of the issues the school board brought up in the lawsuit in 2009, alleging the government had failed to meet its obligation under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms-minority language rights.

“I anticipate the settlement committee will be able to make progress,” Graham said.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with the Yukon Court of Appeal that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias in the trial judge’s behaviour at the original trial.

The highest court in the country didn’t however rule on most of the issues, ordering a new trial instead.

It did rule the board couldn’t decide unilaterally on admissibility – they were asking to broaden the admissibility criteria defined under section 23 of the Charter – but that the government could delegate that power to them.

On Wednesday, Gouaillier said the board could go back to court if the committee didn’t make any progress.

“They could go back to court (but) that’s not going to hurry a school along,” said Graham.

When asked why the Yukon government is turning now to a settlement committee after six years of court battle, Graham said he has only been the education minister for the past six months and couldn’t speak for the previous government.

“I made the decision when I took the job that it’s something we should get settled,” he said.

The lawsuit was brought in 2009 under the tenure of Yukon Party leader Dennis Fentie.

The committee is scheduled to meet in September, but no deadline has been set to come to an agreement.

Graham said he is confident a deal could be reached.

“As long as both parties approach it with the idea that we’re going to comprise on some of these things then we’ll reach an agreement,” he said.

In their original lawsuit the board alleged the government had withheld money.

It’s not an issue anymore Graham said, because both have reached a funding agreement since.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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