Case dismissed....but wait, there is more!

Case dismissed….but wait, there is more!

(See bottom for brief summary)

Another morning at the Court of Queen’s Bench, although cold and windy, at least this time it wasn’t a snow storm. For the 40-50 people who showed in the court room at 9am, it was brief event. Justice Tilleman brought the court to order, introductions were made, and the Justice informed us that his written decision was to be handed out. He dismissed the appeal, and the court was adjourned.

There was a flurry of activity afterwards, as many had questions as to why it was so short. Even some of the reporters noted how brief the proceedings were. I know all of you are eager to here the details, and I apologize that I could not have written this sooner, but I too had to get back to work.

The main arguments that were addressed were:

  1. The 25% condition of section 269(1)(a) of the School Act was not evaluated for the petition.
  2. That 259 signatures that only had postal codes were not considered valid.
  3. That when asked for details on the 110 rejected out of district signatures, the Secretary refused to provide them.
  4. A possible privacy violation of a witness to the petition.

Justice Tilleman began with a brief statement of background on the appeal, and discussed the nature of the appeal. In paragraph [16] he states that we were seeking clarification on the procedures for a petition. In [17] he notes some of the allegations regarding the behaviour of the board leading up to the submitting of the petition, but explains that they are outside the scope of the appeal, and mentions that although outside the scope, it does not mean that relief can not be sought via another avenue. (referencing argument 4)

In the final paragraph of the nature of the appeal [18], the Justice makes note of the fact that the petition that was submitted to the Board of SD76 can be amended to correct the deficiencies that were outlined by the Secretary. This means that we do not have to start again from scratch. Paragraph [18] is what allows us to collect 110 new signatures, and correct the 259. Since March 10th, we have collected 194 new signatures, and corrected 75 of those containing only a postal code. That means we only need to correct another 100 postal code signatures, or collect 100 new. I say we shoot for at least 144 to be on the safe side. If we can get 12 people to volunteer to collect 1 sheet each, we will have our goal. If they collect 2 sheets (24 signatures per person), we will be well within a safe buffer. You can download the petition sheets here.

In part IV. the Justice goes on to explain the standard of review. Both parties agreed on the standard of review, and so in this summary, I will skip over that part. The full text of Justice Tilleman’s decision can be found here.

In part V. the Justice analyzes the 3 remaining arguments. The first being the 25% condition. In paragraph [35] he explains that it would offend basic notions of fairness to expect the secretary to assist the petitioner in identifying the schools to which the signatories belonged. To do so would overlap the duties of the petitioner and the neutral decision maker. This is a fair point to be made. The Justice then explains in [36] that a second petition submitted (by Sheldon Johnston) 2 days later, had clearly outlined school and parent information. Mr. Johnston had informed me that he received the formatting for his petition from the Secretary. That petition was also rejected.

The second contention that Justice Tilleman’s deals with is the signatures with only a postal code. It was dealt with in paragraphs [37-48]. In which, the Justice states that it is a reasonable interpretation that postal codes are all that is need to identify if a signatory is an elector in Medicine Hat, and that it is relevant that the Lethbridge School Board allowed it. It was his judgment though that it could not be applied to all districts, and one School Board is not subject to the decision of another. He also noted, that although the intent of the law was to establish if a signatory was an elector, the wording of the law required a “postal address,” and the Secretary is bound to follow the wording. He therefor made the judgment that it was reasonable to exclude the 259 signatures.

The Final argument Justice Tilleman addressed was the 110. He noted that (we) the applicant did not contest this, only that the Secretary would not provide us with details in a timely fashion. (paragraph [13 & 14])

Based on these determinations, Justice Tilleman dismissed the appeal. No costs were awarded, or discussed.

So, in summary of the summary:

  1. Postal Codes are not sufficient. Full address must be supplied.
  2. 25% rule can only be evaluated if sufficient details about which school the parents child goes to are supplied on the petition.
  3. The petition we submitted on September 19th can be amended and re-evaluated. No deadline was given.

This was not an unexpected ruling. Although the appeal was dismissed, sufficient avenues were provided that allows us to complete the petition and have our committee, in a reasonable time frame. (And no costs were awarded.)

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