The Appellant veterinary student (Mr. Hebron) was unsuccessful in appealing a Chambers Judge’s decision. On application by the Respondent University of Saskatchewan and the Associate Dean (Dr. Grahn), the Chambers Judge had quashed Mr. Hebron’s complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
Administrative law – Correctness – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Disability – Discrimination – Duty to Accommodate – Human Rights Commission – Human rights complaints – Investigations – Judicial Review – Jurisdiction – Standard of Review – Stay of proceedings – Students – Universities
University of Saskatchewan v. Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission,  S.J. no. 419, 2015 SKCA 91, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, August 25, 2015, R.G. Richards C.J.S., N.W. Caldwell and M.J. Herauf JJA.
The Appellant (Mr. Hebron) was a veterinary student who transferred from Grenada to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine program (the “College”) at the Respondent University of Saskatchewan. The other Respondent, Dr. Grahn, was the Associated Dean at the College.
Upon transferring to the College in his fourth year of studies, Mr. Hebron claimed to have a learning disability but refused to provide medical information relating to this disability. During his fourth year, Mr. Hebron struggled with his academic performance at the College. The College took steps to provide additional assistance to Mr. Hebron. Mr. Hebron continued to struggle and the College required him to discontinue the program. The College offered him an opportunity to repeat the year after he upgraded his foundational knowledge.
Mr. Hebron appealed the decision through a college-level appeals system; the Dean dismissed his appeal. Mr. Hebron then appealed to the University Council Appeals Board (“UCAB”). In this appeal, Mr. Hebron claimed that the College had failed to accommodate his disability and this affected his performance. After a full hearing of his appeal, the UCAB panel (the “Panel”) dismissed his appeal. The Panel found that Mr. Hebron was accommodated and there was no evidence the College was discriminating against him.
Mr. Hebron did not seek judicial review of the Panel’s decision. Instead he made a formal complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (the “SHRC”). In that complaint he alleged that the University and Dr. Grahn had failed to accommodate his disability.
The University and Dr. Grahn applied to the Chief Commissioner of the SHRC seeking to have the complaint dismissed as being duplicative of the UCAB process. The Chief Commissioner analysed the issues according to his interpretation and application of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the Figliola case. The Chief Commissioner denied the application and directed the complaint to be reviewed by an investigator.
Subsequently, the University and Dr. Grahn applied for judicial review of the Chief Commissioner’s decision. The Chambers Judge quashed the Chief Commissioner’s decision and permanently stayed all SHRC processes relating to Mr. Hebron’s complaint. Mr. Hebron then appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Court carefully reviewed the analysis by the Chief Commissioner and the Chambers Judge and concluded that the Chambers Judge did not err in using a standard of correctness when considering whether the two tribunals (the SHRC and the UCAB) shared concurrent jurisdiction.
The Court further concluded that the Chambers Judge did not err in finding that the Chief Commissioner incorrectly determined that the two tribunals (the SHRC and the UCAB) did not share concurrent jurisdiction.
The Court concluded that the Chambers Judge did not err in finding that the Chief Commissioner had unreasonably concluded that the SHRC complaint and UCAB appeal were not “essentially the same”. The Court said the two were observably same in law and in fact.
In the result the Court found that there was no basis to set aside the decision of the Chambers Judge. The Court awarded costs to the University and Dr. Grahn.
This case was digested by Scott J. Marcinkow of Harper Grey LLP. If you would like to discuss this case further, please feel free to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or review his biography at http://www.harpergrey.com.
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