Saturday, September 11, 2010

No surprise in Toronto court

Catching up to a day's worth of news alerts, clippings, etc.
I was not at all surprised to see the St. Catharines Standard article on a judge's decision not to grant an injunction on the closure of Niagara District Secondary School in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The decision is not online yet, however it may be within a matter of days at CanLii. From the article:
The case was heard in a Toronto court Aug. 25, and in a decision handed down Sept. 9 Justice Lee Ferrier said he could find no reason to grant the injunction. Ferrier said the process the District School Board of Niagara used to reach the decision to close the school was "scrupulously fair."
The board closed the school because of low student enrolment.
Saying it was not the job of the courts to function as the chairman of the board and overturn board decisions, Ferrier outlined the history of the decision to close the school, including how members of the Friends of NDSS took part in the process.
The judge said NDSS is already closed and students relocated to other schools. As a result, granting the injunction would cause more harm than good and would not adversely effect a motion for a judicial review.
"If all the students of NDSS were required to return to NDSS, it very well might impact student enrolment at the other six schools," he said.
As the article later states, losing this request for an injunction does nothing to the request by several community members for a judicial review of the District School Board of Niagara's decision to close the school. That closure took effect when exams ended in June, and the former NDSS students are now all attending other schools within that board or other schools in the area.
However, the community members and their lawyers may wish to read the full decision on the injunction very carefully. If this judge could see no merit in a temporary reversal of the DSBN decision, it should provide some insight into how the justices hearing the judicial-review cases may also react. As I've written in this space before, despite a rat's nest of motions on the night the board decided to allow a grace period for the school to grow its student population, the DSBN followed the process from the policies it created flowing from the provincial guidelines. A judicial review of these policies in relation to the decision to close this particular school is unlikely, based on the information that's available to us right now, to show any abuse of that process. If that's not the case, I will eat crow. I have yet to read or see anything that suggests this judicial review will be successful.


Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to read the decision. It is hard to get a complete handle on the issues around the abuse of process.

Often ARC meetings are meet the legal min. requirements and documentation and meetings are provided at times when it is difficult for the public to attend.

Disclosure and making information truly available to the public, without errors of omission are the key pieces needed in a fair ARC process. This ARC is probably tied to the old guidelines too, and they are were rife with inequities.

Often the anger in communities is tied to high-handed behaviour of Boards with respect to transparency and of course moving the process along a record speeds with they want a fait-accompli in place, such as moving the students out of the "closed" school.

So in many ways I see the opportunity to go to judical review as a good next step. Often we do things not because we can make change immediately for ourselves but to help others with the same issues.

Good luck to them there are a lot of school closures that forced marches; and new ones everyday.

Education Reporter said...

I received a copy of the 10-page decision earlier today. I will be posting it on GoogleDocs later and will throw up a quick post when that happens.