A Supreme Court of Canada decision has cast more doubt on the future of two prominent Vancouver Roman Catholic schools that may have to be sold to compensate victims of the Mount Cashel sex-abuse scandal in Newfoundland.
But representatives of Vancouver College and St. Thomas More Collegiate insisted that it is business as usual even though the Supreme Court has decided not to hear an appeal of an earlier court ruling that would force the schools to be liquidated.
"This is a long way from being over," said Greg Janelle, a spokesman for St. Thomas More, one of two schools which argue that it would be unfair for their 1,500 students to suffer because of crimes that occurred in Newfoundland.
Yesterday, the B.C. Attorney-General said an injunction would be filed Monday in the B.C. Supreme Court in support of a petition that aims to protect the schools from being sold and to determine if the existing trustee, the Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada, can be replaced.
When the hearing begins on July 22, lawyers acting for the Attorney-General are expected to argue that personal creditors of the trustees should have no recourse against the trust assets.
"It is very clear under the law of trusts in B.C. that you can't liquidate the assets of a trust to satisfy claims against the trustee for something that occurred outside the operations of that particular trust," said John Nixon, chairman of the board at Vancouver College.
"We are confident that we are going to win that petition when it is heard," he said. "If we are successful, then we will move to end any claims against the schools by asking the court to dismiss CIBC as the trustee." David Wingfield, the lawyer acting for Toronto-based liquidator Arthur Andersen Inc. said he doubted that the petition will be successful. "I don't believe B.C. can set aside federal law," he said. "The schools have already been put up for sale. They will close at the end of the current school year. The schools will be sold for good."
Mr. Wingfield said Arthur Andersen has already lined up a number of prospective buyers for the schools, which are located in the city's leafy Shaughnessy and Burnaby districts and together are worth about $40-million.
He also said parents should be told not to expect their children to return to these schools in the fall. "It is irresponsible to tell parents there is no risk of the schools closing," he said.
Proceeds of any sale would go to Mount Cashel students who have claimed a total of about $36-million in damages as a result of abuses.