Yukon calls French judge ‘biased’

The Yukon government is accusing a judge of bias following his order the government must fund three teachers at the Yukon's only French high school.

The Yukon government is accusing a judge of bias following his order the government must fund three teachers at the Yukon’s only French high school.

Justice Vital Ouellette made the interim order on June 24 while the government and the Commission Scholaire Francophone du Yukon hash it out in a lawsuit over the board’s funding.

Ouellette made the order without providing his reasoning or considering evidence from the government’s side, say documents filed by government lawyers two days later.

He grimaced and laughed at the government’s arguments during the trial – signalling a reluctance to take them seriously, the documents allege.

He also made errors in law, they say. Ouellette took the school board’s view of its contribution agreements at face value and misinterpreted them. The school board was able to convince Ouellette it has authority over its funding, which the agreements makess clear is not true, says the government.

Furthermore, the school board didn’t prove that failing to fund the teachers this coming school year would cause irreparable harm.

“His honour, throughout the proceedings, made statements, rulings, facial expressions, uttering and inconsistent rulings disproportionately favouring the plaintiff, giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias,” say the documents.

The appeal is an unexpected twist in the months-long battle between the school board and the government.

The board filed a lawsuit in February alleging it had control over its funding for buildings, personnel and activities. The board argues that its lack of control is a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects minority language rights.

The fight was ignited after the Yukon Department of Education cut funding for a pilot project last year that brought “experiential learning” to the territory’s few French first-language students.

The project – which is supported through a Canadian Heritage fund and the Yukon – is meant to increase enrolment, but so far results have been mixed.

The trial was split into two parts. The first dealt with the school board’s demands that it have more control over funds entitled to it under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That lasted three weeks in June.

A second part, to examine the school board’s demands that new facilities be built, continues in January.

Andre Bourcier, president of the school board, was not available for comment.

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