Snuneymuxw files lawsuit over closures

NANAIMO – First Nation filing an application for judicial review over Cedar-area school closures.

Snuneymuxw First Nation is proceeding with legal action against Nanaimo school district, filing an application for judicial review of the decision to close Cedar-area schools.

Snuneymuxw are asking the B.C. Supreme Court to revoke a school district decision to close Cedar Community Secondary, Woodbank Elementary and North Cedar Intermediate schools, part of the district’s 10-year facilities plan.

“We’re asking the courts to review the decision of the school district to close down the three schools in Cedar, so it’s called a judicial review, and what it’s aimed at doing is declaring those decisions null and void because of the failure of the school board to live up to its obligations to Snuneymuxw,” said outgoing chief Douglas White III.

Snuneymuxw First Nation pays the school district more than $1 million each year for the education of its children and says it has agreements with the district that are “meant to be a foundation for collaboration in providing appropriate education services for [its] children.” White said there is a lawful obligation for the district to consult with Snuneymuxw, something he said didn’t happen with the closure of the schools.

Snuneymuxw claims the district never engaged with it when developing the facilities plan and said it learned of the details of the plan only after it had been approved in principle by the school board.

Dot Neary, board chairwoman, said she has received notification that court documents have been registered but has not had a chance to review the information.

“At this point, I have no comment and the likelihood is, given that this is now going to be a court matter, the likelihood is I’ll have very little comment in the future because it’s going to have to go the course,” Neary said.

The Snuneymuxw expect the school district to file a response in the coming weeks.