Administrative law – Human rights complaints – Discrimination – Settlements – Releases – Judicial review – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter
Ayangma v. Commission Scolaire de Langue Française,  P.E.I.J. No. 28, 2014 PESC 18, Prince Edward Island Supreme Court, June 23, 2014, N.L. Key J.
An applicant for the position of Director General of La Commission Scolaire de Langue Française (the “School Board”) had complained to the PEI Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) alleging discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origin. The applicant (“Ayangma”) had alleged ongoing acts of discrimination against him by the School Board dating back to 2008 and, in February 2012 he had signed a comprehensive Release settling several litigation files against the School Board. In exchange, Ayangma received $370,000.
In March 2013, the Commission dismissed the complaint on the basis that the Release prevented Ayangma from complaining against the School Board in respect of a matter for which he had been compensated pursuant to the terms of that Release.
Ayangma requested an internal review by the Chairperson of the Commission which upheld the original decision. Ayangma brought an application for judicial review.
The standard of review of reasonableness was held to apply to the decisions of the Human Rights Commission or its designate. Because the tribunal is protected by a privative clause, the tribunal was interpreting its own home statute, and the question was one where legal and factual issues were intertwined.
The Court held that the Human Rights Tribunal’s Executive Director had reviewed all of the documentation, including having a familiarity with the litigation history between the parties and the resulting Release, and then made a reasonable decision that the complaint should be dismissed as being without merit. The conclusion was that Ayangma’s claim was not a new matter and was covered by the terms of the Release he had executed.
Ayangma took issue with the fact that the Commission’s Executive Director also ventured into a discussion about the Release’s validity in relation to any future claims or actions. The Court noted that it was not in a position to determine whether or not this was a correct interpretation of the Release in respect of future claims. The function of the Court was only to determine whether the Executive Director’s decision was reasonable. The Court held that it was and that the internal appeal decided by the Chairperson confirming the Executive Director’s decision was also reasonable. The application for judicial review was dismissed. The Commission did not seek costs but costs on a partial indemnity basis were awarded to the School Board against Ayangma.
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