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Cornerstone injunction denied

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

Battle River School Division voted to end their relationship with Cornerstone Christian Academy in Kingman on June 29. File photo

Battle River School Division voted to end their relationship with Cornerstone Christian Academy in Kingman on June 29. File photo

The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench in Wetaskiwin rejected an application for an injunction that would delay the severance of the Cornerstone Christian Academy from the Battle River School Division until the court process can play out.

The injunction was filed by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms on behalf of the CCA Society and three parents and a hearing was held on May 17. Justice Terry Clackson made his oral ruling on May 23, saying 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 CCAS was impossible, given the break-down in the relationship between BRSD and Cornerstone over the past year.

"It's a bad marriage where confidence and trust has been lost," said BRSD legal council Yvon Prefontaine during the hearing. "Forcing them back together would be a mistake."

For the society, this is the latest hurdle they now need to overcome as they seek to regain their private school accreditation, which they held from 1986 when they opened until they joined BRSD in 2009. That process has been delayed by the government, and according to society chairperson Deanna Margel they were given no reason for the delay. They have been told they will be given a new date for a meeting with Alberta Education on Thursday.

Justice Clackson did say it would be unconstitutional for the government to refuse to grant Cornerstone private accreditation.

"It is a word of encouragement but nothing is guaranteed," said Margel.

"We keep holding on to faith and keep moving forward, best we can do for the kids."

The JCCF filed a court action on Dec. 26, 2017 in an attempt to over turn a decision by BRSD to end their relationship with Cornerstone. A date for the court action has yet to be set, though the likelihood of that happening before the end of the school year is remote.

There were 170 kids enrolled in the Kingman school this year leaving their educational options for next year in limbo until a decision has been made on accreditation.

According to Prefontaine, nine CCA staff members have already taken positions within BRSD for next season. With the future of Cornerstone up in the air, they are in a holding pattern until a decision has been made on being able to offer teachers new packages for next year or to hire to replace those who have elected to stay with the school division.

"It's going to be tricky, there is no doubt," said Margel. "But we are a member of the Association of Christian Schools International and so there are resources available to help us in this process, we are not panicking yet."

The working agreement between the school and the division broke down over what the society is calling censorship of the Bible due to the use of a verse in their vision and purpose document that the board deemed violated the School Act and Human Rights legislation. The society did back down from using the passage, but the relationship broke down further while negotiating a new working agreement over communication policy.

BRSD board chairman Kendall Severson said he is hoping they are now able to just move forward.

"It's sad no matter what happens, but it's nice to get some closure here, some resolution, ," he said.  

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