School board wins legal battle against town

Verner school to continue receiving free snow clearing, garbage collection

Photo : Google StreetView

The Franco-Nord French catholic school board has won its case against the Municipality of West Nipissing after opposing the town’s decision to terminate free snow clearing and garbage collection services for Ste-Marguerite-d’Youville school in Verner.

The free services stem from a 1988 agreement for the sale of the former St-Jean-Baptiste school in Verner, which the former Township of Caldwell bought from the school board for the symbolic sum of $1, and in return provided snow and garbage removal services to the new Ste-Marguerite-d’Youville school. In 1999, Caldwell became part of the newly amalgamated municipality of West Nipissing, and the services continued.

However, back in the fall of 2017, municipal council resolved to end the practice, citing that no other local school receives these services. After being informed of this fact, the school board had to seek out a snow removal contractor, and tried to negotiate with the municipality over the summer of 2018, insisting that the 1988 agreement was meant to last in perpetuity. After failed negotiations, the board headed to the Ontario Superior Court.

Judge David Nadeau of the Superior Court sided with the municipality in December 2019. The court considered two questions: should the 1988 agreement be considered a perpetual contract, and could the contract be terminated unilaterally. Judge Nadeau found that the contract was not perpetual due to lack of evidence proving perpetuity, and that the agreement could be terminated unilaterally considering the 2002 and 2012 attempts by the town and negotiation with the school board to end the services.

Franco-Nord then appealed the Superior Court’s judgement. Three Court of Appeal judges agreed with the board this time, stating that the municipality benefited from the almost-free purchase of the old St-Jean-Baptiste school, which the municipality still operates to this day. The building houses the Verner public library, municipal offices, the France Gareau park and splash pad, as well as some community groups.

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