The NWT Court of Appeal has reserved judgement on a case that would overturn a court order requiring the territorial government to provide French schools in Yellowknife and Hay River with new gyms and specialty classrooms.
Roger Lepage, lawyer for the French school board, Commission scolaire francophone (CSF), announced Wednesday the court chose to delay the appeal ruling, which some are calling a defining case for French first language rights in the NWT.
“When a Court of Appeal reserves a decision, there is no set date for the decision to be rendered. We anticipate that it could be anywhere between four to six months before we receive a decision,” Lepage said.
The GNWT is appealing a court order from 2012 that determined the government is constitutionally responsible for providing French schools with equal services, which are estimated to cost $26 million in additions and upgrades.
The court is also hearing an appeal from CSF on whether French preschool is also a constitutional guarantee under Article 23, as a right for children to be able to speak French before entering kindergarten.
In December of last year, the territorial government proposed a school swap, suggesting students from French schools use the gymnasiums and classrooms at nearby English schools where student enrolment has been steadily decreasing.
Both English and French school boards in Hay River rejected the school swap proposal in early March after hearing the idea unanimously condemned by parents at a community meeting.
The Yellowknife school board has scheduled a discussion with parents on the GNWT’s proposed school swap in May.
Once the Court of Appeal does make a ruling, both the GNWT and CSF will have 60 days to further appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“The process can be fairly lengthy yet, however we are satisfied that the Court of Appeal heard all of our arguments and that we are looking forward to a favourable ruling,” Lepage said.