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Albertan Christian homeschooling organizations ask closing be reversed

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The organizations that oversaw the Christian homeschooling of 3,500 Alberta students have asked a judge to reverse the province's decision to shut them down last week over allegations of financial impropriety.

Trinity Christian School Association and Wisdom Homeschooling Society of Alberta, in court documents filed in Grande Prairie, Alta., deny misappropriating millions of dollars and argue the government's decision to shutter their operation is unconstitutional. The students under Trinity's umbrella will suffer "irreparable harm," the document alleges.

Trinity was a private yet publicly funded schooling outfit and had contracted Wisdom to administer its homeschooling operation.

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Read more: Alberta shuts down private Christian school operator

Read more: Scores of Alberta homeschooling supporters fear an erosion of parental rights

The two organizations, however, are tightly intertwined with overlapping leaders and directors.

The government alleges the two main families involved collected millions of dollars, a result of inappropriate compensation deals and rental agreements.

The Oct. 25 closing was a "calculated attack in an arbitrary, hostile and capricious fashion, and for an unlawful purpose," the 11-page document filed Tuesday says, and it violated the rights of students and parents and caused "enormous stress, anxiety, hardship and uncertainty."

Three sets of parents with students enrolled in the defunct program are part of the lawsuit. One set is identified as "John Doe and Jane Doe" and described as "the unknown (at this time) parents and students of Trinity."

Jay Cameron, the lawyer representing Trinity, Wisdom and the three sets of parents, declined to comment.

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The lawsuit alleges the closure came as a shock and government officials "accosted" students when they closed down the bricks-and-mortar branch of the school in Cold Lake, Alta., on Oct. 25.

Last week, the government issued a 37-page report and six-page letter detailing its accounting concerns following a summer-long financial audit. Among them were concerns that Wisdom was withholding money that was supposed to go to parents.

Trinity and Wisdom's court filing says they "contest and deny the accuracy, findings and recommendations of the" government's report.

Kenneth and Marlane Noster founded Wisdom and the family owns Lone Spruce Farm near Derwent, Alta.

Wisdom, according to the government, paid Lone Spruce $493,800 in rent over the last four years, a rate Alberta officials believe was inflated by a factor of 10.

The farm is in a rural area, 200 kilometres east of Edmonton. Alberta alleges this type of non-arms-length deal is inappropriate.

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Trinity, in a statement released Tuesday, argued the government was aware of the arrangement.

Richard Schienbein served as Trinity's principal and superintendent. Messages left at Trinity and at a number listed under R Schienbein in Cold Lake were not returned. Trinity employs other Schienbein family members.

Alberta's education minister David Eggen, through his chief of staff, declined to comment because the case is before the courts.

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About the Author

Carrie Tait joined the Globe in January, 2011, mainly reporting on energy from the Calgary bureau. Previously, she spent six years working for the National Post in both Calgary and Toronto. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario and a bachelor’s degree in political studies from the University of Saskatchewan. More

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