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Catholic school board challenge delayed

Erika Sherk
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 13/06) - A court challenge to ban non-Catholic trustees on the Yellowknife Catholic School Board has been delayed until the new year.

Department of Justice attorney Martin Goldney, who is representing city returning officer Debbie Euchner, requested an adjournment to consider documents filed by Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS) in Supreme Court on Monday.

The issue in question is whether, constitutionally, YCS can bar non-Catholic trustees. Also arising from that is the question of whether the attorney general of Canada has the right to raise charter arguments.

"It's not a matter of utmost urgency," said Goldney, of YCS's challenge, adding that no one is in jail waiting for a court resolution.

Representatives from YCS, including board chair Shannon Gullberg, were present in the courtroom. Amy Hacala and her mother Debora Simpson, the two non-Catholic candidates in the school board election, were also there. Hacala has been serving as a YCS trustee since being elected in October.

The school board is operating in full swing, despite the election issues, according to its chair.

"It's business as usual," said Gullberg. "It's what we agreed to do, what we are required to do."

Supreme Court Justice Ted Richard expressed surprise that nobody was present to represent the attorney general.

"The NWT Act is probably the most important statute that affects us here in the North and the attorney general takes no position on being attacked?" he asked.

Later, YCS attorney Kevin Feehan asked if the court could "require" the attorney general or a representative to attend the hearing. Justice Richard said the attorney general would be made aware of the new hearing date whenever it is set.

In response to the request for adjournment, Feehan said that the YCS team had pulled all-nighters to finish their reply so the court challenge could proceed on Dec. 11 as scheduled.

However, Justice Richard granted the adjournment, hoping that a date in January or February could be found.

"It's disappointing," said Gullberg, of the delay.

"In an ideal world, we hoped to have all the arguments in today. We want this to be resolved."