Response to Court Ruling on Student Trustees

Dear Catholic Education supporters across the Province of Ontario,

We want to provide you with information about an application with the Court that was brought against the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) regarding the Board’s policy that Student Trustees must be Catholics.

A student of the YCDSB initiated the application after she was disqualified as a Student Trustee candidate because she is not Catholic. Elected Catholic School Board Trustees must be baptized Catholics and the YCDSB’s policy applied this requirement to Student Trustees. YCDSB fought this lawsuit vigorously because we believe ALL Trustees are entrusted with the responsibility of governing the Board, nurturing the faith formation of our students and protecting the Catholicity of Catholic education.

The Ontario Superior Court found, in its opinion, that Student Trustees do not hold governance positions like their adult counterparts and, as such, we cannot require them to be Catholics. We believe this is an unjust decision that diminishes the importance of the position of Student Trustee and compromises the integrity of Catholic education. 

After several days of reviewing this judgment, however, we have decided with heavy hearts not to appeal the decision. We have been advised that leave of the Court to appeal the decision is only likely on the basis of an error in law and that any appeal could incur significant costs. In this case, we believe the Court has based its decision on a fundamental misunderstanding of the role and importance of Catholic Student Trustees, and unfortunately, this severely limits the chances of a successful appeal.

The YCDSB will abide by the ruling while we continue to do what we have always done. We will stand by the Cross while we offer every learning opportunity to all of our students. Since the extension of public funding to Catholic schools in 1984 resulted in a Provincial Open Access Policy for Grades 9-12, our Board has welcomed many non-Catholic students who happily attend our high schools because their families believe faith-based education nurtures the whole child. Everyone who steps foot in a YCDSB school knows that Jesus Christ is at the centre of our community and that will not change.

Sadly we recognize that anti-Catholicism is present in our society today, requiring all of us to be vigilant and vigorous defenders of Catholic education. We ask you to contact your MPP to advocate for Catholic education and demand that they fix the language used in the Education Act that created this court case in the first place. Help them to understand the critical role played by Catholic Student Trustees and their authentic impact on Board governance.

Thank you for your continued prayers for Catholic education,

Trustees of the York Catholic District School Board