Decisions of university official regarding student group’s space booking privileges held not to be subject to Charter scrutiny

21. June 2016 0

The vice president of student affairs at the University of Victoria suspended a pro-life student group’s space booking privileges for a year after they violated his instruction not to proceed with a demonstration on campus. The group petitioned for a declaration that the decision was in violation of section 2 of the Charter. The Chambers judge as well as the Court of Appeal found that the decision was not governmental in nature and did not attract Charter scrutiny.

Administrative law – Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Freedom of expression – Government institution – Policies – Student associations – Students – Universities – University Committee

BC Civil Liberties Assn. v. University of Victoria[2016] B.C.J. No. 751, 2016 BCCA 162, British Columbia Court of Appeal, April 18, 2016, M.E. Saunders, P.M. Willcock and G. Dickson JJ.A.

The associate vice president of student affairs at the University of Victoria revoked the permit of a pro-life student group called Youth Protecting Youth (“YPY”) to hold a demonstration on campus, and subsequently suspended their outdoor space booking privileges for one year after they proceeded with the demonstration anyway. The BC Civil Liberties Association and president of YPY petitioned for a declaration that the Charter right of freedom of expression applied to these decisions, and to the university’s Booking of Outdoor Space by Students Policy, and had been infringed. They argued that the university, in affording students a forum for free expression, is affecting government policy and, in doing so, must be governed by the Charter. On review, the Chief Justice held that neither the impugned decisions nor the Policy itself could be challenged on the grounds that they violated the students’ Charter rights. The petitioners appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal held that while the Policy can be said to have been adopted pursuant to s. 27 of the University Act, that did not necessarily invoke the application of the Charter. Applying the Eldridge criteria, the Court concluded that the impugned acts were not governmental in nature. There was no basis upon which it could be said on the evidence that when the university regulated the use of space on the campus, it was implementing a government policy or program. The Court dismissed the appeal.

This case was digested by Kara Hill of Harper Grey LLP. If you would like to discuss this case further, please feel free to contact her directly at or review her biography at

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