Administrative law – Universities – Students – Duty to accommodate – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Human Rights Tribunal – Human rights complaints – Discrimination – Disability – Judicial review – Limitations – Compliance with legislation – Standard of review – Patent unreasonableness
Callaghan v. University of Victoria,  B.C.J. No. 2668, British Columbia Supreme Court, October 11, 2006, Blair J.
The University admitted the Petitioner, who suffered from dyslexia, as a student. The Petitioner alleged that the University did not assess her learning needs and did not provide her with a computer, as her psychologist requested in order to assess whether a computer would benefit her. The Petitioner alleges that a computer would have assisted her to cope better with her learning disability. As a result of the Petitioner’s continued poor academic performance, the University forced her to withdraw from school. The Petitioner attempted unsuccessfully to persuade the University that her withdrawal resulted directly from the University’s failure to properly accommodate her learning disability.
The Petitioner filed a complaint with the BCHRT alleging that the University discriminated against her on the basis of her learning disability with respect to services customarily available to the public, contrary to section 8 of the Human Rights Code. She also alleged that the discrimination was ongoing as a result of the University’s refusal to readmit her after her withdrawal. The University filed a response objecting to the BCHRT accepting the complaint on the basis that it was filed outside the statutory time limit found in the Code.
The BCHRT in its reasons explained that the matters of which the Petitioner complained were not continuing contraventions; rather, they were the continuing effects or consequences of the earlier reiterations of the previous contraventions. The BCHRT concluded that the complaint was therefore filed outside of the statutory time limit. It also held that it was not in the public interest to accept the complaint at that time.
The Petitioner sought to quash the decision of the BCHRT and return the complaint to the BCHRT for reconsideration.
The Court held that the applicable standard of review is found in the Administrative Tribunals Act, S.B.C. 2004, c.45 (“ATA”). It explained that the BCHRT as a human rights decision maker is entitled to marked deference with respect to decisions it makes to hear a complaint. With regard to the timeliness of the complaint, the BCHRT’s interpretation of whether the Petitioner established continuous contraventions, as well as to the BCHRT’s exercise of discretion, the Court concluded that the appropriate standard of review is patent unreasonableness and held that the BCHRT fairly and properly considered the issues raised by the Petitioner and dismissed the application.
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