SD68 in BC Supreme Court for all the wrong reasons

Update from Save Cedar Schools Coalition regarding SD68 in BC Supreme Court:

On March 11 and 12, 2014 the Save Cedar Schools Coalition sent representatives to Victoria to watch as the Snuneymuxw First Nation and School District 68 went head to head in the BC Supreme Court over the definition of “meaningful consultation”.

“Save Cedar Schools 100% supports the Snuneymuxw First Nation in their efforts to have a meaningful engagement in the decisions made regarding the education of their children.

All that the Snuneymuxw First Nation has asked SD68 to do is overturn the bylaws closing all the Cedar area schools, reopen the consultation process in order to create the opportunity to have meaningful engagement in the writing of the Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan,” Steve Rae of Save Cedar Schools, states.

This request would have cost SD68 little to no money.

Instead, SD68 has chosen to fight the Snuneymuwx in court, resulting in mounting legal fees for both parties.  It is unfortunate that it has come to this when there was a simple, cost effective, educationally sound response to the reasonable request made by the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

Rae adds, “Unfortunately this type of irresponsible decision making is becoming the norm rather than the exception in SD68.  SD68 has been crying poverty for months, even years now and yet once again, SD68 and the Board of Education are making irresponsible decisions that will have negative impacts on the education of our children.”

“The decision by the Board of Education to fight this in court instead of sitting down and listening is taking money away from operational programming at a time when this School District needs it more than ever before”, said Steve Rae.  Save Cedar Schools is disappointed, saddened and heartbroken that these are the decisions being made by the same people charged with educating our children.

On March 11 and 12, Joe Arvay, QC and Catherine Boise Parker of Farris Law Group argued for the Snuneymuxw First Nation.  Judith Anderson and Michael Hancock of Harris Law Group argued for SD68.  The Honourable Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson heard the case for the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Save Cedar Schools has also been asking SD68 to reopen the consultation process for months.  Rae says, “We have provided the Board of Education with strong arguments that their plan is both financially and educationally flawed.  For months SD68 and Board of Education has responded to the community of Cedar the same way they have been responding to the Snuneymuxw First Nation, by completely ignoring our reasoned requests and plowing ahead with a plan that is detrimental to our students, our community and the District as a whole.”

Adding insult to injury for both the Snuneymuxw and Save Cedar Schools was the fact that four trustees and Superintendent Hutchinson and Secretary Treasurer Turin from SD68 were in attendance to watch the proceedings and staying overnight in Victoria.

If four trustees and the two most senior staff members of the district had taken two full days to meet with the Snuneymuwx during the consultation process, or at some point between August and December 2013 when they repeatedly asked for input into the writing of the Cedar portion of the Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan, than we would not have been in Victoria at all.

The fact that seven people from SD68 came to sit in a court room rather than spend that time meeting with the Snuneymuxw First Nation shows that the educational and financial priorities of this district and its Board of Education are completely misguided.

The difference between the District and the Board of Education:
The  District is the paid employees of SD68 whereas Board of Education refers to the Trustees.

At court last week in Victoria were; three District staff members (The superintendent, the secretary treasurer and the District Principal for Aboriginal Education) and four Board of Education  members (Jamie Brennan, Bill Bard, TerryLynn Saunders and Bill Robinson).