Dufault, a teacher and Human Resources Superintendent for a school district, was unsuccessful in overturning a decision by an investigative subcommittee of the British Columbia College of Teachers to issue a citation against him with respect to his involvement in hiring a teacher without certification from the College

Administrative law – Teachers – Disciplinary proceedings – Professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming of member – Investigative bodies – Jurisdiction

Dufault v. British Columbia College of Teachers, [2002] B.C.J. No. 864, British Columbia Supreme Court, April 25, 2002, Ross J.

Dufault was the Associate Superintendent of Human Resources for the School District of Abbotsford. He was responsible for hiring teachers in the District. Dufault was a member of the B.C. College of Teachers, which is established pursuant to the Teaching Profession Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 449.

In October 1999, Dufault became aware that there was a vacancy at a secondary school in the District. The position was advertised but no qualified applicants with certification from the College applied. KM did apply for the position and held a Bachelor of Education degree and teaching certificate from Alberta. She had completed a teaching practicum in B.C. and had been teaching at the post-secondary level in B.C. She advised Dufault that she was in the process of obtaining certification from the College. KM was offered a temporary position and her hiring was subject to her obtaining certification. After she commenced her duties, KM advised Dufault that the College had declined to issue her a certificate. She advised Dufault that she was appealing the decision through the College’s internal appeal process. In January 2000, KM advised Dufault that her appeal had been rejected. The District permitted KM to continue teaching. It did not apply for a letter of permission that would have enabled her to continue to teach despite her lack of a certificate. The District did not re-employ KM after the end of her appointment in June 2000.

On September 27, 2000, Dufault was advised that an investigation would be conducted by the preliminary investigation sub-committee (“PISC”) of the College based upon receipt of information that he had continued to authorize the employment of a person as a teacher even with knowledge that the individual had been denied certification. The PISC released its preliminary report on April 17, 2001. By letter dated June 1, 2001, PISC directed a citation be issued against Dufault stating that a hearing panel would conduct a hearing to determine whether Dufault had been guilty of professional misconduct or other conduct unbecoming a member of the College.

Dufault sought a review of the PISC decision to issue the citation and brought his petition pursuant to section 40 of the Act. The court noted that the scope of review pursuant to section 40 of the Act is broader than that pursuant to a judicial review citing Young v. British Columbia College of Teachers, [1999] B.C.J. No. 1908.

The first issue reviewed was whether the College had jurisdiction in the circumstances because the essence of the College complaint against Dufault was that he acted contrary to the provisions of section 19 of the School Act. Counsel for the College of Teachers submitted that maintaining the integrity of the education system is part of the professional responsibility of members referred to in section 4 of the Act and, consequently, the hiring and firing of teachers falls within the conduct of members that is an appropriate subject for investigation. The court agreed with this submission and held that the conduct in question fell within the mandate of the College as established by the Act.

Dufault then submitted that the conduct in question could not constitute professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a member as it did not relate to his conduct as a member but rather in his administrative role. The court held that the College is, under its statutory mandate, entitled to consider the broad, public interest in relation to the conduct of its members. An integral aspect of that interest is the public interest in knowing that members of the profession are properly trained and qualified and that they are subject to being disciplined by their professional bodies. In this case, the conduct at issue arguably undermined the statutory scheme that makes membership in the College mandatory for persons employed as teachers in the Province. As such, the conduct at issue could constitute conduct unbecoming a member or professional misconduct.

Dufault further submitted that the College took irrelevant matters into account in deciding to issue a citation by considering the factual circumstances relating to two other cases as part of its investigation. These two cases also involved instances in which teachers were employed in Dufault’s district without certification. The court held that these matters could not be said to be irrelevant and held that the PISC was entitled to consider the information in its decision.

In the result, the court held that Dufault had not established any error with respect to the decision of PISC to issue the citation and commence an inquiry into his conduct. Dufault’s petition was dismissed.

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