May 27th, 2018
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has rejected the Justice Centre’s application for an interlocutory injunction staying the decision of the Battle River School Division (BRSD) to close Cornerstone Christian Academy (Cornerstone), pending a court decision as to the lawfulness of the decision to close the school. The injunction hearing was held in Wetaskiwin on May 17.
In his oral decision of May 23, Justice Clarkson ruled that there is no Charter right to a publicly-funded alternative program run by a public school board. He expressed further concerns that compelling BRSD to continue a working relationship with Cornerstone was impossible, given the break-down in the relationship between BRSD and Cornerstone over the past year.
Justice Clarkson agreed, however, that it would be unconstitutional for the Alberta government to refuse to grant Cornerstone Christian Academy private school status, which Cornerstone held until it joined BRSD in 2009.
Without this injunction, Cornerstone will close as of June 30, 2018, and cause 170 kids to lose the school they love. The applicants are considering next steps.
The Justice Centre’s application for judicial review on behalf of Cornerstone, and three parents of children who attend Cornerstone, continues despite the court’s refusal to grant injunctive relief. The application for judicial review seeks to overturn BRSD’s June 2017 decision to terminate its agreement with Cornerstone, the Master Agreement, which will cause the closure of the school in June 2018, after it refused a BRSD demand to censor any portions of the Bible that may be considered offensive.
From 1986 to 2009, Cornerstone Christian Academy was managed as a private school. In 2009, Cornerstone joined BRSD as an alternative program. The Cornerstone Christian Academy of Camrose (the Society), which had managed Cornerstone, and BRSD executed Master Agreements to this effect in August 2009, and again in 2010 and 2015. The Master Agreements stated that Cornerstone would be a religious alternative program based on Christian beliefs and the Bible. On July 1, 2015, the Master Agreement was renewed for a five-year term by BRSD and the Society.
On January 30th, 2017, Imogene Walsh, BRSD Assistant Superintendent of Business emailed the Society regarding a proposed simplified version of the Cornerstone School Vision and Purpose Document stating that one of the many Scripture references in the proposed Vision and Purpose Document, I Corinthians 6:9-11, must be removed. Ms. Walsh further stated in the email, “[b]ased on the position of the Minister of Education and Alberta Education, we do not support leaving this reference in the document”. After some discussion, the Society agreed to remove the reference.
On May 27, BRSD Chair Laurie Skori confirmed a demand to the Society that “any scripture that could be considered offensive to particular individuals should not be read or studied in school” and alleged that Cornerstone was not in compliance with the School Act and human rights legislation. On June 29, 2017, BRSD notified the Society that it was terminating the agreement between the parties.