The Lunenburg County District School Board (the “School Board”) appealed the decision of the Supreme Court quashing a decision by the Board of Appeal dismissing a teacher (“Haché”) charged with sexual offences against his students. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal holding that the evidence relied on by the Board of Appeal was not capable of supporting the evidence of the complainants.

Administrative law – Teachers – Disciplinary proceedings – Decisions of administrative tribunals – School boards – Judicial review – Procedural requirements and fairness – Evidence – Witnesses

Haché v. Lunenburg County District School Board, [2004] N.S.J. No. 120, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, March 30, 2004, Glube C.J.N.S., Freeman and Cromwell JJ.A.

In 1995, the School Board became aware of allegations that Haché had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with some of his students. Criminal charges were brought against Haché. He was acquitted of some of the charges but convicted of six others involving four complainants. These convictions were set aside on appeal and new trials were ordered. The Crown did not proceed with new trials and entered permanent stays of proceedings with respect to the charges. None of the charges resulted in convictions.

In 1996, the School Board discharged Haché and Haché appealed his dismissal to a Board of Appeal as provided for in the Education Act, S.N.S. 1995-96, c. 1. The Board of Appeal upheld the discharge. Haché applied to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia which quashed the Board of Appeal’s decision on the basis that Haché had not been given proper notice of the complaint against him on which the dismissal had been founded. The School Board appealed the decision of the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal disagreed with the finding of the chambers judge that the discharge was void from the beginning due to failure to provide proper notice to Haché of the complaints. The court noted that Haché was aware of the allegations against him by the various complainants and the failure of the School Board to specifically outline the allegations of the sixth complainant was not fatal to the validity of the notice.

The Court of Appeal found that the Board of Appeal committed a reviewable error by concluding that evidence of a certain witness was “significant corroboration” of the complainants’ credibility. The court reviewed the evidence of the witness and noted that the evidence related to statements made by other individuals and not the complainants. The court found that this evidence was not logically probative of the credibility of the complainants’ testimony which the Board of Appeal relied upon in making its decision. In the result, the Court of Appeal held that this error was sufficient to support the chambers judge’s decision to quash the decision of the Board of Appeal. The appeal by the School Board was dismissed with costs to Haché.

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