Posts tagged human rights code
The Supreme Court of Canada announced this morning that it has granted leave to appeal the decision of the BC Court of Appeal in the case of Jeffrey Moore, which involved the claim that North Vancouver School District 44 had discriminated against him by failing to provide certain services aimed at special needs children. The Court of Appeal decision was a landmark in the legal treatment of students with special needs in relation to the nature of accommodations a school district and ministry of education are required to provide.
Given the important social issues connected to this case, it is unsurprising that the highest court in the land has agreed to hear it, and many educators and parents are looking forward to how it will be resolved.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) handed down a decision last week that put an end to an extended tenancy in student housing by a Victoria man who obtained his last degree from the university almost 15 years ago. Here is a summary of the event in a recent article in the Vancouver Sun:
Alkis Gerd’son argued the university’s attempts to evict him violated his human rights because he has a mental disability.
But in her decision handed down last week, tribunal member Barbara Humphreys dismissed Gerd’son’s complaint “because I find that it is not justified,” she wrote.
Gerd’son earned a bachelor’s degree in 1997 and hasn’t completed classes since then, but continued to live in a $655-a-month one-bedroom apartment on campus.
UVic repeatedly tried to evict Gerd’son, and served him an eviction notice in 2010, after winning its case against him in B.C. Supreme Court. The eviction process was put on hold pending the conclusion of the human rights case.
Gerd’son has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and allergies. The province designated Gerd’son disabled in 2004, allowing him to collect monthly support, including a housing allowance.
UVic offers on-campus accommodation to students enrolled in a minimum of nine units of degree-track courses per calendar year. Once students finish classes, they’re expected to vacate residence rooms.
The university said that it allowed Gerd’son to remain in residence since 1997 out of compassion, even though he was no longer eligible.
But on Aug. 29, 2008, UVic served Gerd’son with an eviction notice based on his failure to maintain student status or pay rent.
UVic argued that it fulfilled its obligation to accommodate Gerd’son, but because he refused to move out of the residence, it had no choice but to begin eviction proceedings.
To make a long story short, the university got an order from the BC Supreme Court in September of last year requiring Gerd’son to leave (this was based on an earlier decision [CanLII] that Gerd’son was living there on a month-to-month tenancy arrangement), and the university took further steps to make that happen in December. Gerd’son has been out of the apartment since then, but the issue was still a live one until this decision was handed down.
The legal point to be decided on by the BCHRT was whether the university had discriminated against Gerd’son on the basis of mental disabilities pursuant to sections 8-10 of the Human Rights Code (BCLaws). Ultimately, the BCHRT concluded that since Gerd’son was not in a degree-granting program, and student housing was devoted toward students in a degree-granting programs, he could not have been denied student housing on the basis of his disabilities.
The decision includes several powerful quotables about the nature of student housing and the essential identity of a university as being “in the business of granting degrees” rather than providing housing. The adjudicator clearly acknowledged that universities have enough trouble arranging housing for first-year students, for whom housing is guaranteed, let alone others who are no longer in degree-granting programs. This decision serves as a reminder that although universities may be seen as quasi-municipalities, they are fundamentally about granting degrees and moving students through their buildings and out into the rest of society.