French school board applies to Supreme Court of Canada

The French school board plans to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to hear its case against the government. Last week the Yukon Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for the case involving French language rights in the territory.

The French school board plans to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to hear its case against the government.

Last week the Yukon Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for the case involving French language rights in the territory.

The Yukon Court of Appeal ruled the judge, who ordered a new French high school be built in Whitehorse, showed a “reasonable apprehension of bias.”

That was enough to order a new trial, without examining many of the legal questions brought up in the case.

“It is unfortunate that the judges of the Court of Appeal have chosen not to examine the essential and fundamental issues in the trial,” said Ludovic Gouaillier, president of the school board, in a statement.

“Consequently we now find ourselves 23 months later with a decision that sends both parties to square one on fundamental issues. Therefore, we will be asking the Supreme Court of Canada to review the Yukon Court of Appeal’s decision.”

The francophone school board brought the case against the Yukon government, alleging it had not met its obligations under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects minority language rights.

The original judge, Vital Ouellette, ordered the government to build a new French high school and pay the board nearly $2 million that the school board alleged had been diverted from it to French immersion programs.

At the time of the original trial, Ouellette was a governor of the Alberta group Fondation franco-albertaine. The appeal judges ruled that was cause for concern.

Going back to square one “does not constitute a viable option,” the school board said.

“We must consider the human and financial resources already invested in this process as well as those that would be spent through a new trial. Therefore, the trustees have chosen to call upon the Supreme Court of Canada which has the final authority to decide on these matters,” Gouaillier said.

“Only this will allow CSFY to continue its quest to provide the members of the Yukon francophone community with educational services of a quality which conforms with Article 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Elaine Taylor, the minister responsible for the French Language Services Directorate, said she met with the school board’s president last week.

“It’s well within the school board’s right to continue the court proceeding and we certainly respect their decision to seek clarity on those questions as they pertain to charter language rights in this country,” she said.

Taylor said the government is continuing to work with the school board even as the case is ongoing.

Both sides point to two new portables at Ecole Emilie-Tremblay, and the funding of a study to look into a new French high school, as signs of that work.

The study looks at a number of options, including a separate French high school on the same site as the new F.H. Collins secondary school.

“There haven’t been any decisions made on that front, and those discussions will continue,” said Taylor.

Government officials estimate they’ve spent $2.6 million on the case from the beginning.

Not every case that applies to the country’s top court is heard.

The country’s Supreme Court Act says that a case is chosen by the court “by reason of its public importance.”

Judges are not required to provide reasons for why they choose to hear one case and not another.

In 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada only granted a hearing to about 12 per cent of the cases that applied.

The French school board has until April 14 to submit its application.

According to the most recently available statistics, it takes on average 4.4 months for the court to decide if it will hear a case.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

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

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announce the first COVID-19 related death in a press conference announcement Friday morning. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
UPDATED: Yukon announces first COVID-19-related death

The person was an older Watson Lake resident with underlying health conditions, officials said

Wyatt's World for Oct. 30.

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 30

Health Minister Pauline Frost insists no one who shows up at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter for dinner will go without a meal, despite no drop-in dinner service being offered starting on Nov. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Non-profits concerned as Whitehorse Emergency Shelter ends drop-in dinner service

Minister Pauline Frost insists everyone who needs one ‘will be provided with a meal.’

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29. Affordability challenges is being described as being among the most pressing issues facing housing markets throughout the north in a report released Oct. 29 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Home, rent prices increasing in Whitehorse, northern housing report says

Affordability continues to be a major challenge, report says

Premier Sandy Silver talks to media in Whitehorse on March 19. According to the premier, who is also the finance minister, the Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, instead of the surplus it had originally predicted. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in 2019-2020

Deficit attributed to lower-than-expected revenue, higher expenses on health and social side

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and management roundtable discussion Sept. 26, 2019. During an Oct. 29 meeting, Constable highlighted a number of potential changes to the City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Work on City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw continues

Officials will look at procedures for other municipalities

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Aug. 26. Hanley said the source of the outbreak in Watson Lake may not ever be found, but contact tracing in the community continues. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
New Whitehorse COVID-19 case is unrelated to Watson Lake cluster, officials say

Chief medical officer of health says avoid indoor Halloween parties, monitor for symptoms

Joel Krahn/Yukon News file Whitehorse City Hall.
Whitehorse city council, briefly

Updates on matters before city council on Oct. 26

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
GoFundMe for Whitehorse boy hit by car on Range Road raises more than $62k in a day

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

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 passed first reading on a bylaw for the designation change at its Oct. 26 meeting, prompting an upcoming public hearing on Nov. 23 ahead of second reading on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Local contractors will be given an advantage on a contract for the design and construction services that will see a new reception building at Robert Service Campground decided city councillors during the Oct. 26 council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local firms will get advantage on contract for new Robert Service Campground building

Yukon-based companies competing for contract for new reception building will receive 20 extra points

Fallen trees due to strong winds are seen leaning on to power lines which caused some power outages around the territory on Oct. 26. (Courtesy of ATCO)
Wind knocks out power around the Yukon

High winds on Oct. 26 knocked out power to Faro, parts of Whitehorse and beyond

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

Most Read