Derek and Frances Baars have filed a court application against the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society (CAS), which violated the Charter rights of the Baars by closing down their foster home because the couple refused to tell the girls in their care that the Easter Bunny is a real entity.
In 2015, Derek and Frances Baars completed thorough training on foster parenting. CAS completed a “homestudy”, which included numerous interviews and home visits over a period of several months.
The Baars welcomed two sisters, ages three and four, into their home in December 2015. The sisters were temporarily separated from their biological parents, with the goal of returning them to live with their parents again in the future. A weekly journal was passed back and forth between the Baars and the biological parents, who made various requests that the Baars carried out.
The Baars are devout Christians and had informed CAS that they do not celebrate Halloween. CAS said this was not a problem; someone else could take the girls trick-or-treating if the biological parents requested this. CAS had also noted in its Homestudy Report that the Baars “do not endorse Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny as they do not wish to lie to children.”
“From the beginning, it was our delight to have the girls with us. We loved them from the moment that they came to us,” states Frances Baars in an affidavit filed this week in the court application against CAS. The Baars regularly took the girls to a park near their home, attended and hosted playdates with other girls of similar age, played educational games, and painted with them, which provided hours of entertainment.
CAS’s Support Worker Tracey Lindsay visited the Baars and the girls, and acknowledged that they looked well cared for in all respects. However, Ms. Lindsay informed the Baars that it was part of their duty as foster parents to teach the girls about the Easter Bunny, because she considered it part of Canadian culture. The Baars informed Ms. Lindsay that they intended to hide chocolate eggs and have the girls find them at Easter, and play other games. The Baars planned not to speak to the girls about the Easter Bunny at all, unless the girls specifically asked questions about this
In late February 2016, Ms. Lindsay informed the Baars that the girls would be taken away, and their foster home permanently closed, if the Baars refused to inform the girls proactively that the Easter Bunny is a real entity. Ms. Lindsay’s demand was known to CAS, and was supported by her superiors. All this despite the fact that the biological parents had never expressed a desire for the girls to be told that the Easter Bunny is real.
The Baars offered to let the girls stay with another foster family over the Easter period. Ms. Lindsay refused. On March 3, 2016, Ms. Lindsay told the Baars that their foster home would be shut down, and the girls would be taken away the next morning. The Baars requested a transition period of more than 24 hours, believing that a sudden change would be unwise and inappropriate for the girls. Ms. Lindsay refused.
As Frances Baars explains it in her affidavit:
We had poured our lives into taking care of the girls. To have them suddenly ripped away from us was deeply painful. … It was the days after they left that the house felt empty without them. I lacked desire to do anything. As remains of their belongings kept popping up—we had so little time to pack the girls’ belongings that we weren’t able to collect everything—it finally struck me that they weren’t coming back. Several weeks later the girls’ worker stopped by to pick up their remaining belongings, including the scrapbooks I had made for the girls, which I had purposely held on to so I could finish the scrapbooks before sending them on. The scrapbooks were my final way of showing our love and care, and to provide them with reminders of all the good times we had together. A picture of the girls is still on our fridge, so we can remember the happy times we shared.
The Baars asked Ms. Lindsay if they could keep their foster home open just for infants, or for families that do not celebrate the cultural practices of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Ms. Lindsay refused.
As recently as January of 2017, the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society has continued to struggle with a severe shortage of foster parents in Hamilton.
“The Hamilton Children’s Aid Society needs to be held accountable for its misguided emphasis on a single, minor issue,” stated Calgary lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay.
“People can be good foster parents even if they refuse to say that the Easter Bunny is real, especially with the pressing shortage of foster parents which the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society itself has spoken about publicly,” continued Carpay.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) has written to the Nova Scotia Registrar of Motor Vehicles (the “Registrar”) requesting that it reinstate the personalized license plate of Lorne Grabher, whose surname was deemed too “socially unacceptable” for the road.
Lorne Grabher, of Dartmouth, NS, first purchased the personalized license plate as a gift for his late father in 1991. It has since become a source of family pride, spanning three generations – Grabher’s son has the family name on his own personalized Alberta license plate.
Mr. Grabher received a letter dated December 9, 2016, from the Office of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles which stated that a complaint had been received regarding his personalized license plate. As a result of the complaint, the Registrar decided to cancel Mr. Grabher’s plate, despite acknowledging it was an explicit reference to Mr. Grabher’s surname. The reason provided for the cancellation was that the plate could be “misinterpreted” as a “socially unacceptable slogan”.
Mr. Grabher responded to the Registrar on December 19, 2016, and reminded the Registrar that the license plate had been used by three generations of his family, for over 20 years. Each successive year the plate was renewed, without incident.
In its letter, the Justice Centre calls out the Registrar’s decision as “discriminatory,” “arbitrary,” “unreasonable” and in violation of free expression as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It further states that the decision is “an affront to the dignity of Canadians, and particularly those Canadians who are not of Anglo-Saxon descent.”
“In a multicultural society, government must respect individuals’ heritage and freedom, and encourage community understanding. Pandering to an unreasonable complaint and canceling our client’s plate perpetuates misunderstanding, subverts the dignity and heritage of our client and many other Canadians, and violates the freedom of expression protected by the Charter,” stated lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay.
The letter requests that the Registrar reinstate Mr. Grabher’s personalized license plate, listing his surname, no later than Thursday April 6, 2017.
“If by April 6, 2017, you have not provided us with written confirmation evidencing your commitment to reinstating the license plate, our client will have no choice but to take further steps to assert his legal rights,” concludes the letter.
- Justice Centre to the Registrar March 31 2017
- Grabher response to Registrar December 19 2016
- Letter from Registrar to Mr. Grabher December 9 2016
The Justice Centre has responded to an Order that Alberta Education Minister David Eggen issued last week to two Edmonton-area private Christian schools, in regard to Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).
On November 14, 2016, Minister Eggen received a Report from Edmonton lawyer Dan Scott, who had been asked to conduct an Inquiry into Harvest Baptist Academy and Meadows Baptist Academy, both operated by the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society (“IBCES”). Together the two schools have 84 students, of whom only seven are high-school aged (grades 7-12). Dan Scott’s Report concludes that both of these schools have been, and are currently, in legislative compliance with the School Act. On March 22, 2017, Minister Eggen issued an Order telling the schools to comply with the School Act.
In a letter responding to the Minister’s Order, the Justice Centre points out the Minister’s failure to comply with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FOIPP Act”), under which Eggen was ordered to release the report by February 6, 2017. Further, the two schools in respect of which the Report was written did not receive the Report prior to its release to the media and general public. Calgary lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay describesthis as “a lack of courtesy and professionalism.”
The Justice Centre has drawn attention to the 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Loyola High School v. Quebec, in which the Court held that the government cannot “undermine the character of lawful religious institutions and disrupt the vitality of religious communities”, including religious schools. The Court was unanimous in finding that the Education Minister in that case had unlawfully limited freedom of religion.
The Justice Centre further refers the Minister to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. Canada’s Constitution also recognizes the right of parents to impart their values to their children through religious schools, regardless of how popular or unpopular that religion’s teachings may be at a particular time or place.
The Court in Loyola quoted from Article 18(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Canada ratified in 1976, and which requires governments to “undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents to … ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.” This Covenant is legally binding on Canada and other party states.
In March of 2016, every school in Alberta submitted its anti-bullying policies to the Education Minister. Catholic schools have submitted policies that do not allow GSAs to be set up in Catholic schools. Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other religious schools have submitted similar policies, insisting that student clubs must be respectful of the school’s beliefs and values.
The Justice Centre’s letter reiterates the request from the two Edmonton-area Christian schools, and other private religious schools, to meet face-to-face with the Education Minister.
- Dan Scott Report Nov 2016
- Minister’s Order 22 March 2017
- Government commendation of IBCES schools
- Letter from Justice Centre to Alberta Education Minister David Eggen 29 March 2016
The Justice Centre has been granted intervenor status in two related cases in Ontario brought by the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (“CMDS”) and others against the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (the “CPSO”) (Court File Nos.: 499-16 and 500-16 in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice).
The CPSO has adopted policies that require medical practitioners to (1) provide “an effective referral” for medical procedures and services, even if those services conflict with a doctor’s conscientious or religious beliefs, and even to perform such services when “necessary to prevent imminent harm”; and (2) provide “an effective referral” for physician-assisted suicide, also known as Medical Assistance in Dying (“MAID”). The Justice Centre’s intervention in these two cases will focus on the Supreme Court’s repeated rulings that there is no Charter right to health care. We make the point that there is therefore no Charter right to any medical procedure, including MAID. Further, there is no right, Charter or otherwise, to demand that an individual doctor perform or provide an “effective referral” for a specific medical procedure or service that violates that doctor’s conscientious or religious beliefs. On the contrary, doctors have protected conscience and religious rights under section 2(a) of the Charter, and government bodies like the College are required to respect those Charter freedoms. This court application will be heard in Edmonton June 8 and 9, 2017.
- Motion Record
- Notice of Application – Christian Medical and Dental Society
- Notice of Application to Divisional Court for Judicial Review
- Justice Nordheimer Order 500-16
- Justice Nordheimer Order 499-16
Erik Fountas was peacefully expressing his beliefs on a public sidewalk when Toronto Police charged him with obstructing a street.
Around noon on February 2, 2016, Erik Fountas and a colleague began preaching near the corner of Yonge Street and Gould Street. Erik was preaching on a wide sidewalk area, near a large concrete staircase that leads up to a Ryerson University building. Erik was preaching at the street edge of the sidewalk, facing toward the staircase, when a small crowd formed in front of him.
The Toronto Police Service (TPS) received a complaint about a comment Erik allegedly made while he was speaking to the small group of listeners. Two TPS officers requested that Erik leave. When he refused, they issued him a ticket for “encumbering a street” and therefore violating 313-2A of the Toronto Municipal Code. The By-law in question states:
“No person shall obstruct, encumber, injure or foul or cause or permit the obstructing, encumbering, injuring or fouling of any street.”
The TPS officers claimed that the crowd listening to Erik was so large that it blocked entirely the passage of pedestrians on the Gould Street sidewalk.
The Justice Centre is representing Erik as he challenges the ticket and defends his freedom of expression. A hearing will be held on May 29, 2017.
The Justice Centre is representing a former Manitoba Marriage Commissioner, Kevin Kisilowsky, who lost his licence to perform marriages after he indicated that, based on his religious beliefs, he was unable to perform same-sex ceremonies.
Apart from Mr. Kisilowsky and a very small number of other marriage commissioners, almost all of Manitoba’s more than 1,000 marriage commissioners are willing and able to provide same-sex ceremonies. There is no need for Manitoba to require each and every marriage commissioner to be willing to provide this service. Mr. Kisilowsky is asking only that the government provide reasonable accommodation for him, as other provinces have done for their marriage commissioners, without imposing hardship on any party.
- Read more about Kevin Kisilowsky v. Manitoba
- Notice of Application – filed April 23, 2014
- Affidavit of Kevin Kislowsky – sworn March 12, 2014
- Supplemental Affidavit of Kevin Kisilowsky
- Factum of the Applicant
- Ruling of the Court of Queen’s Bench, November 21, 2016
In September of 2015, Candice Servatius received a letter from the principal of John Howitt Elementary School (JHES) in Port Alberni, BC, where her two children attend. The letter informed parents that JHES would be hosting a “Traditional Nuu-chah-nulth Classroom/Student Cleansing” performed by a “Nuu-chah-nulth Member” in the school’s classrooms. The letter did not provide a date for when these cleansing rituals would take place.
The letter from the school described specific beliefs of the Nuu-chah-nulth: “everything is one, all is connected” and “everything has a spirit.” The school’s letter described in detail how the cleansing ritual would “cleanse” the classroom of “energy” and cleanse the students’ “spirits.” The letter claimed that without cleansing, the classroom and even the furniture would harbour negative “energy” and would not be safe until the “energy” was “released.” The letter stated that each student would participate in the cleansing ritual by holding onto a cedar branch while having “smoke from Sage fanned over [their] body and spirit.” Agree or disagree with these beliefs as you wish, but there is no denying that these aboriginal teachings are as “religious” as any that might be found in the Bible or Koran.
Concerned about the explicitly religious nature of the cleansing ritual, Mrs. Servatius went to the school to learn more. She was shocked to find out that this “cleansing ritual” had already been imposed on her children.
Her daughter explained that she had been coerced by the teacher to participate in the cleansing ritual. When Mrs. Servatius’ daughter expressed to her teacher that she did not want to participate, the teacher told Mrs. Servatius’ daughter that it would be “rude” not to participate in the religious ritual and that “all” the students were “required” to participate.
In January of 2016, Mrs. Servatius learned from her children that a prayer based on Aboriginal spirituality had been performed at a JHES student assembly, with explicit references to an unspecified “god”. JHES did not notify parents.
School District 70 denies that these religious ceremonies and prayers are violating the religious freedom of Mrs. Servatius and her children, and claims that these are merely “cultural”.
The School District’s claim that these are cultural practices is true, but misses the point. There is a world of difference between teaching children about Islam, and requiring children to kneel on prayer rugs in the direction of Mecca and say a prayer to Allah. In similar fashion, students can benefit from learning about aboriginal religious beliefs without being coerced to participate in religious rituals and ceremonies.
The fact that a religious ritual like smudging might also be “cultural” is irrelevant to whether religious freedom has been violated, according to the Supreme Court of Canada. In Mouvement laique quebecois v. City of Saguenay, the court ruled that “the state must neither encourage nor discourage any form of religious conviction whatsoever. If the state adheres to a form of religious expression under the guise of cultural or historical reality or heritage, it breaches its duty of neutrality.”
In Saguenay, an atheist adult won the right to be spared the indignity of being present while City Councillors said a non-denominational prayer that was opened and concluded with the words “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” He was not required to participate in the prayer, unlike Mrs. Servatius’ children, one of whom was told by her teacher that it would be “rude” to refuse the “cleansing” of her “spirit” by Sage smoke.
The Saguenay ruling rejected a compromise policy to have the atheist leave the Council Chambers during the prayer, because this exacerbates discrimination: “If he chose to exclude himself from the prayer either by refusing to participate in it or by leaving the chamber, he would be forced to reveal that he is a non-believer… Such interference constitutes an infringement of the complainant’s freedom of conscience and religion.”
In spite of the cultural benefits that might flow from having children say the Lord’s Prayer in schools, courts have interpreted the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as including a right to be “free from” religion. That means not coercing children or adults to participate in any religious prayer, ritual, ceremony or practice.
The violation of religious freedom through the imposition of prayer on children in the classroom cannot be avoided by providing exemptions to excuse some children from participation. The Ontario Court of Appeal in 1988 ruled in Zylberberg v. Sudbury Board of Education that mandated religious practices violate the religious freedom of students and parents, even if students have the right to be exempted from participating in the religious practice. The court ruled that “Peer pressures, and the desire to conform, are notoriously effective with children. Does common experience not tell us that these things are so, and that such feelings might easily, and reasonably, lead some not to seek exemption, and unwillingly conform, or others to seek it, and be forced to suffer the consequences to their feelings and convictions? … The peer pressure and the class-room norms to which children are acutely sensitive, in our opinion, are real and pervasive … Thus the excusal provision in its operation subjects [non-conforming children] to a cruel dilemma. In consequence, even devout children may well avoid claiming their right and simply continue to participate in exercises distasteful to them because of an understandable reluctance to be stigmatized as atheists or nonconformists simply on the basis of their request. … children are disinclined at this age to step out of line or to flout “peer-group norms”. … The requirement that pupils attend religious exercises, unless exempt, compels students and parents to make a religious statement. … the exemption provision imposes a penalty on pupils from religious minorities who utilize it by stigmatizing them as non-conformists and setting them apart from their fellow students … the conclusion is inescapable that the exemption provision fails to mitigate the infringement of freedom of conscience and religion.”
In November of 2016, the Justice Centre filed a Petition with the BC Supreme Court in Nanaimo, BC. Mrs. Servatius seeks a declaration that the actions of School District 70 in forcing her children to participate in a cleansing ritual and be subject to religious prayer have violated her and her children’s religious freedom.
The School District argues that children benefit from learning about aboriginal cultures, including aboriginal religions. Yes, and one can teach kids about aboriginal religious beliefs without hosting religious rituals and ceremonies in the classroom.
- Filed Petition
- Filed Affidavit of Candice Servatius
- Exhibit B – JHES letter to parents
- Exhibit E – July 12 Legal Warning Letter from the Justice Centre
The Justice Centre is acting on behalf of Amberlee Nicol, Cameron Wilson, and the student club UAlberta Pro-Life in its court application against the University of Alberta to challenge a $17,500 “security fee” demanded by the University in order for the group to set up a peaceful display on campus in February 2016. The court application also challenges the University’s decision to condone violations of the Code of Student Behaviour (Code) directed against the pro-life club in March of 2015.
On January 11, 2016, UAlberta Pro-Life applied for University authorization to set up a stationary educational display on campus on February 23 and 24, 2016. On February 12, only eleven days prior to the scheduled event, the University of Alberta notified the students that they would need to pay $17,500 in “security fees” to proceed with their peaceful educational display. In its communication, the University demanded that pro-life students pay for the wages of security guards and police, and costs of barricading the venue, and pay for the potential misconduct of people who would violate the University’s Code of Student Behaviour by obstructing and disrupting the display. Unable to pay $17,500, UAlberta Pro-Life was forced to cancel its planned event in February 2016.
In March of 2015, UAlberta Pro-Life held a similar event, which (then) President Indira Samarasekera supported through a public statement that the University must facilitate and protect the peaceful expression of all views, regardless of popularity. In defiance of the President’s clear statement about free expression and the rule of law, a student-led mob blockaded and obstructed the club’s display, in violation of the Code of Student Behaviour. Although the University had advance notice that a mob was being organized to obstruct the display, and although Dr. Samarasekera had warned that any misbehaviour would be investigated and prosecuted, the University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) did nothing to stop the blockade of the club’s display. UAPS did not photograph or seek to identify any blockading student, even though the Code clearly prohibits students from disrupting or obstructing University-related functions.
On March 11, 2015, UAlberta Pro-Life filed a formal complaint with UAPS against the disruptive students pursuant to the Code of Student Behaviour. It took UAPS over eight months to release a decision in regard to the complaint. In its November 30, 2015 decision, UAPS confirmed that the University would neither charge nor prosecute the students who disrupted, blocked and obstructed the March 2015 display on campus.
On December 18, 2015, the Justice Centre wrote to the University of Alberta Office of Student Conduct and Accountability to appeal the UAPS Decision. On February 4, 2016, the Office of Student Conduct and Accountability dismissed the appeal.
In its court application, UAlberta Pro-Life seeks a declaration that the decision made by the University of Alberta to impose a $17,500 security fee on the club is illegal and unjustifiably infringes the fundamental Canadian value of freedom of expression, also protected by section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court application further seeks to prohibit the University from imposing a financial burden on the students as a condition for the exercise of their freedom of speech.
This court application also seeks a declaration that the decision made by the University of Alberta to condone the conduct of students who disrupted and blockaded the University-authorized campus event of UAlberta Pro-Life in March of 2015, is unreasonable and therefore illegal.
- News Release: Student group takes University of Alberta to court after $17,500 “security fee” demanded to express views on campus
- Originating Application of UAlberta Pro-Life
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) has denied club status to a student group seeking to discuss issues and views on campus that RSU executives disagree with.
The Men’s Issues Awareness Society at Ryerson (MIAS) is a student group established in 2015 by students at Ryerson “to host discussions and bring social awareness to issues that disproportionately affect men and boys, such as higher rates of suicide, homelessness, workplace injuries and failure in school.” Nearly half of MIAS’ members are women.
On October 19, 2015, MIAS submitted its application to RSU for recognition as a student group. At a meeting with RSU’s Student Group Committee on October 26, RSU told MIAS that there was no need for a men’s issues group. RSU took the position that other groups like the Women and Trans Collective were already addressing many of the issues MIAS sought to focus on. Further, RSU claimed that men have “systemic privilege,” and that a group focused on men’s issues would “harass” women and make them feel “unsafe”.
On October 27, 2015, MIAS was informed that its application for club status had been rejected. MIAS immediately appealed the decision, making numerous changes to its constitution to answer concerns the RSU had listed. These amendments expressly stated MIAS’ pre-existing commitments to remain independent of any external control, to reject all forms of violence and hate speech, to take all precautions for safety at any group functions, and to provide a safe place for discussions free of fear for personal safety. Nevertheless, on January 26, 2016, the RSU Board of Directors voted to reject MIAS’ appeal.
As a result of RSU’s decision to deny club status, MIAS is excluded from RSU club services such as funding, advertising, event approval services, and free room and facility bookings, even though MIAS members are required to pay fees to RSU. RSU has recognized over 80 other student groups, ranging from ideological and religious clubs to shared ethnic and hobby clubs. Without student group recognition, MIAS has been forced to hold events off campus, because they cannot afford to book event rooms on campus. This has made it very difficult for the group to engage with their peers and attract new members.
The Justice Centre has filed a court application against RSU on behalf of MIAS. In the court application, MIAS seeks a declaration that the decision of the RSU to deny their application for student group recognition (i) was contrary to the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness, (ii) was tainted by a closed mind and bias, and (iii) was not made in good faith; that it exceeds RSU’s jurisdiction and is contrary to RSU’s own policies and rules; and that it is unreasonable, discriminatory and contrary to fundamental common law values and the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by failing to respect Ryerson University students’ freedom of expression and freedom of association. This court application further seeks an order prohibiting RSU from limiting access to its services and other resources on account of the thoughts, beliefs, opinions, expressions or associations of students or student groups.
On January 17, 2017, the Justice Centre questioned current RSU President, Obaid Ullah, and Kevin Arriola was questioned by RSU’s counsel. A hearing date is currently being sought.
On February 7, 2012, the application against the Ryerson Students’ Union was consolidated with the cases against UTMSU and the Student Association at Durham College and UOIT (both described below). All three cases will now be heard together in Toronto. A hearing date is currently being sought.
- News Release: Ryerson men’s issues group takes student union to court after being denied club status
- Filed Notice of Application
- Affidavit of Kevin Arriola and Exhibits
- Application Record of RSU
- Cross Examination Transcript – Kevin Arriola
- Cross Examination Transcript – Obaid Ullah
- Order of Lederer J. to consolidate Student Union Cases
Speak for the Weak v. Student Association at Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology
The Student Association of Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (“Student Association”) refused to grant club recognition to the student group, Speak for the Weak, due to its stance on abortion. The Student Association claims that allowing a pro-life club on campus would constitute “systemic societal oppression”, and would violate “human rights”. The Student Association further claims that only clubs which support abortion are “equity-seeking” and therefore allowed on campus.
Speak for the Weak’s application for club status was denied in September 2015. The students spent most of the fall semester unsuccessfully attempting to appeal the decision to the Student Association’s Board of Directors. Without club status, student groups cannot gain access to Student Association space and resources, making it very difficult to conduct activities and engage with the student body.
In a court application filed on behalf of Speak for the Weak, the Justice Centre argues that the Student Association has violated its own policies and rules, failed to follow the principles of natural justice, based its decision on irrelevant considerations, and failed to respect students’ freedoms of expression and association.
On February 7, 2012, the application against the Student Association was consolidated with the cases against UTMSU and the Ryerson Students’ Union. All three cases will now be heard together in Toronto. A hearing date is currently being sought.
- Sworn and Filed Affidavit of Christian Naggar
- Issued Notice of Application
- News Release: Free speech at stake in court application against Oshawa student union
- Naggar Cross-Examination
- Rexhmataj Cross-Examination
- Cullen Cross-Examination
- Order of Lederer J. to consolidate Student Union Cases
The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) refused to renew the club status of Students for Life for the 2015-16 year, effectively barring the student group from using the student centre and accessing student union resources. As a result, in September of 2015, Students for Life could not join other campus clubs in setting up a table during clubs’ week—a key event for recruiting new members.
UTMSU had granted club status for Students for Life in the 2014-15 school year, but changed its mind specifically because of Students for Life’s “stance on Abortion”. UTMSU’s mission statement includes a commitment “[t]o safeguard the individual rights of the student, regardless of race, creed, sex … or personal or political beliefs,” and lists “strength in diverse voices and opinions” as a “fundamental belief.”
After receiving a legal warning letter from the Justice Centre in October 2015, Russ Adade, UTMSU Vice-President, changed his previous rationale for denying club status to Students for Life, namely, the club’s stance on abortion. Adade instead told Students for Life that the reason their club was denied status was “violations and discrepancies we found within your constitution in relation to the clubs handbook and UTMSU operational policy as it pertains to clubs.”
Students for Life immediately made the required changes to their constitution, but UTMSU has continued to deny club status, necessitating a court application.
The Justice Centre has filed a court application on behalf of Students for Life against UTMSU for violating its own rules, for acting with bias and bad faith, for breaching the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness, and for failing to respect students’ fundamental freedoms of expression and association.
On February 7, 2012, the application against the UTMSU was consolidated with the cases against the Ryerson Students’ Union and the Student Association at Durham College and UOIT. All three cases will now be heard together in Toronto. A hearing date is currently being sought.
- UTM Students for Life v. UTMSU Application
- Affadavit of Diane Zettel
- Issued and Entered Order of Archibald J
- Adade Transcript
- Otello-Deluca Transcript
- Zettel Transcript
- News Release: Student group sues University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union over hostile treatment
- Anti-abortion group sues UTM students’ union after denial of club status
- Order of Lederer J. to consolidate Student Union Cases