Get No Anonymization, TRB Decisions = HRT Decision – NOPE!

Child K (by Ehmke) and another v. Queen of All Saints School and another

The topics under this decision include:

  1. Anonymization attempt by the respondents
  2. Dismissal attempt – Due to TRB decisions

The parent, Lee Ehmke who has fought with legal representation has won to be named. She is in a legal battle with the Queen of All Saints School within the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver Archdiocese.

(37) Child K has a chronic health condition which impacts her ability to do certain tasks in a classroom, including writing. Mrs. Ehmke alleges that, throughout grade 2, her teacher failed to provide necessary classroom accommodations to meet Child K’s disability-related needs. She says that she asked the School to provide Child K with an Individualized Education Plan [IEP], but the School took the position that Child K was not entitled to one because her needs were being met through classroom adaptations. Towards the end of the school year, Mrs. Ehmke asked the School to apply for a Ministry of Education funding designation for Child K. The School declined to pursue a designation at that time. It said that it would address the issue in the fall of 2018, when the applications to the Ministry were due.

(38) Mrs. Ehmke says that, throughout the year, Child K’s school-related anxiety was escalating because her disability-related needs were not being met. On April 24, 2018, Child K stopped attending School because of that anxiety. She never returned. The following year, Child K enrolled in a public school, where she received a Ministry designation and an IEP.

(Keep this case handy parents if you want your district named. Paragraphs on this topic are 5-34.)

(7) The Tribunal has discretion to limit publication of identifying information where a person can show their privacy interests outweigh the public interest in full access to the Tribunal’s proceedings: Tribunal Rules of Practice and Procedure [Rules], Rule 5(6); Stein v. British Columbia (Human Rights Tribunal), 2020 BCSC 70 at para. 64(a). The Tribunal may consider factors like the stage of the proceedings, the nature of the allegations, private detail in the complaint, harm to reputation, or any other potential harm: JY at para. 30. It may also consider whether the proposed limitation relates to only a “sliver” of information that minimally impairs the openness of the proceeding: CS v. British Columbia (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal), 2019 BCCA 406 at para. 37. It is not enough to just assert that a person’s reputation may be tarnished: Stein at para. 64(c).

(29) I appreciate that naming the School could make it easier for motivated and diligent people to identify the people who were involved in the events of this complaint. In that respect, my order will not perfectly protect the people involved. However, I find that – unlike the individual educators and staff involved – there is a specific public interest in the identity of the School as a publicly funded institution serving the public: A obo B v. School District 61, 2014 BCHRT 105 at para. 11. I am not persuaded that this public interest is outweighed by the potential that some of the educators may then be identified. There have already been a number of complaints and proceedings involving the educators and staff, and Mrs. Ehmke points out that many people within the community already know about the complaint.

(30) I deny the application to limit publication of the name of the School.

TRB Decisions do not allow for the HRT to dismiss

(83) I acknowledge, and agree with Mrs. Ehmke, that the process followed by the Commissioner to decide whether to take no further action under s. 52 is less procedurally robust than the process undertaken by a hearing panel adjudicating a complaint after a citation is issued. Various cases have recognized the lower level of procedural fairness required at the initial stages of a disciplinary body’s proceedings: eg. Kuny v. College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba, 2017 MBCA 111 paras. 21-22. The reason that there is a reduced duty of fairness at the preliminary stage is because the stakes are relatively low. The complainant’s legal interest is a right to have their complaint investigated: JN at para. 80. For the educator, a decision not to issue a citation allows them to continue in their profession without restriction: JN at para. 84. It is only at the disciplinary hearing stage that the educators’ right to practice their profession is engaged, and more significant obligations of procedural fairness arise: Kuny at para. 16(3), citing Kane v Bd of Governors of UBC, [1980] 1 SCR 1105 at 1113. This lower level of procedural fairness is reflected in the fact that the participants in the preliminary stage do not have notice 22 of each others’ evidence or arguments, or an opportunity to respond directly to each others’ materials.

(84) I do not find that the lower level of procedural fairness required at the preliminary stage of the disciplinary proceeding is determinative of whether the Commissioner’s decisions to take no further action were judicial. A process may be judicial even if it does not involve oral evidence, cross-examination, or adversarial argument, or where there are other more robust fact-finding mechanisms available. For example, courts may decide issues by summary judgement or trial, or may strike pleadings without making factual findings. In doing so, there is no question they are exercising a judicial function: see generally discussion in Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7. Here, the fact that the parties did not have full procedural rights reflects the preliminary stage of the proceeding and not the nature of the exercise. I consider Mrs. Ehmke’s limited role in the proceedings to be a factor more helpfully considered when I turn to whether – as a matter of my discretion – it is fair to apply estoppel.

(112) Finally, I consider the public policy considerations weighing against an estoppel. I recognize that the law requires parties to “put their best foot forward” to establish their allegations when first called upon to do so: Danyluk at para. 18. However, if a person filing a complaint to the TRB understood that their civil and human rights could be determined in the Commissioner’s investigation and decision about whether to issue a citation, it would create an incentive for complainants to “mount a full-scale case” at a stage where such an approach may not be warranted or appropriate within the statutory scheme: Penner at para. 62; Danyluk at para. 73. Alternatively, people may be deterred from filing complaints based on a possibility that their civil and human rights could be determined in a process where they have limited participatory rights: Penner at para. 63.