Administrative law – Employment law – Teachers – Termination of employment – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Board of Reference – Interpretation of Evidence – Jurisdiction – Judicial review – Standard of review – Patent unreasonableness
Regina School Division No. 4 v. Hallgrimson,  S.J. No. 198, Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, March 25, 2004, Dawson J.
Gilbert Hallgrimson was a teacher with 25 years of experience in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. He was employed by School Division No. 4 for 10 years prior to his dismissal. In November of 2001, the School Division filed a report with the police asserting that numerous band instruments belonging to its band program had disappeared. The information supplied to the police named Mr. Hallgrimson and his children as having the missing band instruments. Based on the information provided by the School Division, the police obtained a warrant to search the home of Mr. Hallgrimson where three band instruments and a CD player, all owned by the School Division, were found.
On June 19, 2002, the School Division terminated Mr. Hallgrimson’s teaching contract on a number of grounds, including his failure to care for and supervise the use of School Division property and his failure to foster and/or maintain the trust and confidence of the School Division and its administration.
Mr. Hallgrimson made a written request to the Minister of Education for an investigation of his dismissal. A Board of Reference was convened and in a written decision, the majority of the Board of Reference set aside the termination and ordered Mr. Hallgrimson to be reinstated as a teacher. The majority also made consequential financial orders flowing from that decision. The School Division applied to the court to set aside and quash the decision of the majority of the Board of Reference on the grounds that 1) the Board did not confine its findings to the reasons given in the written notice of termination; 2) the majority of the Board of Reference answered questions and addressed issues that were not before it; 3) failed to determine the issues that were properly before it; and 4) did not functionally apply the correct standard of proof.
In reviewing the decision, the court noted that the Education Act, S.S. 1995, c. E-0.2 (the “Act”), provides that the decision of a Board of Reference is final and binding but that either party can apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench for an Order to set aside the decision of the Board of Reference on the grounds that:
(a) there was an error of law on the face of the record;
(b) the Board of Reference lacked the jurisdiction to hear the matter; or
(c) the Board of Reference exceeded its jurisdiction.
The parties agreed that the matter was within the jurisdiction of the Board. The court noted that based on the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal’s decision in Board of Education of Eston-Elrose School Division No. 33 v. Leavins (1997), 152 Sask.R. 241, the Court of Queen’s Bench only has jurisdiction to deal with clear errors of law, and not with errors of mixed law and fact, or of fact alone. The court then held that many of the issues raised by the school division related to the sufficiency and weight of evidence and did not properly engage questions of law.
After reviewing the evidence, the court held that the Board of Reference had applied the correct standard of proof and that the Board of Reference had identified the issue put before it in general terms. The court determined that the decision was acceptable and that the Board of Reference had sufficient evidence to conclude on a balance of probabilities that the actions of Mr. Hallgrimson were not sufficient to warrant termination on any of the grounds put forward by the School Division.
As there was no error on the face of the record, the court held that School Division No. 4 failed to establish that the board’s decision was patently unreasonable. The application was dismissed with costs.
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