The Court of Appeal reversed the order of the executive of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (“STF”) and set aside the finding that a school principal (“Casavant”) was guilty of professional misconduct and/or conduct unbecoming to a teacher where the Court found that the report tendered to the executive by the Professional Ethics Committee (the “Committee”) was inadequate

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Teachers Federation – Appeals – Teachers – Disciplinary proceedings – Professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming – Judicial review – Reasons – Report adequacy of – Compliance with legislation

Casavant v. Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, [2005] S.J. No. 257, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, April 21, 2005, Cameron, Lane and Richards JJ.A.

On September 12, 2003, Casavant had discussions with Slava Gratchev, a teacher at the Big River Community High School, concerning Gratchev’s approach to disciplinary matters. Gratchev was Russian and had formerly served in the Russian army. Gratchev complained to the STF that Casavant had made inappropriate comments concerning his nationality and background. The matter was referred to the Committee which convened a hearing on January 22, 2004 at which both Casavant and Gratchev testified. At the hearing, Casavant specifically denied making reference to the “Russian army” as opposed to merely commenting on Gratchev’s involvement in the “army”.

Following the hearing, the Committee prepared a written report dated January 22, 2004. In this report, the Committee found Casavant guilty of professional misconduct and/or conduct not becoming a teacher and recommended that he receive a severe reprimand by way of penalty. In the report, the Committee laid out the evidence in an even-handed and complete manner but did not resolve any of the factual discrepancies between Casavant’s version of events and the version provided by Gratchev. Based on the findings of the Committee, the executive of the STF reprimanded Casavant. Casavant appealed.

The Court indicated that the adequacy of a report such as the one prepared by the Committee can be assessed either by reference to common law principles or applicable statutory provisions. In reviewing the legislative context of the discipline hearing at issue, the Court indicated that it was clear that the report of findings prepared by the Committee represented the culmination of a formal hearing process which suggested that the report should be something more than a mere statement of conclusions. The Court held that the legislative context of the report required that the report must meet basic threshold requirements including:

  1. it must be prepared with sufficient detail and clarity that the parties, the STF executive or a reviewing court could understand the basis and rationale of the Committee’s decision;
  2. the report should summarize the evidence which bears on the issues and at least capture the key feature of what was presented to the Committee;
  3. the report should set out the findings of fact necessary to resolve the complaint and in cases where there is contradictory evidence, the Committee should explain why it chose one version of events over another;
  4. if credibility is a factor, the report should indicate why the evidence of a particular witness was preferred or rejected; and
  5. the report should reveal the reasoning employed by the Committee in sufficient detail and with sufficient clarity to allow the reader to understand how or why the conduct in issue was considered to be professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming to a teacher.

In this case, the Court found that the report was inadequate in that the Committee did not take the necessary step of making findings of fact in relation to what transpired between Casavant and Gratchev. As the Court was unable to ascertain the findings of fact which underpinned the Committee’s decision, the Court held that the decision and the sanction imposed by the STF executive must be set aside.

In the result, the appeal was allowed, and Casavant was entitled to costs.

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