Egale’s intervention in York Region District School Board v. Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario before the Supreme Court of Canada

Intervening to Ensure the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Applies to the Actions of School Boards

Jump to: Case Summary | Background | Egale’s Role | Case Outcome| Documents

Case Summary

Egale intervened in York Region District School Board v. Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario on appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada in order to share our expertise on 2SLGBTQI people and issues with the court.  The goal of Egale’s interventions is to make sure that our communities’ needs are understood and considered in courts’ decision-making processes. 

This case concerns privacy rights at school. As is seen in the face of the harmful and unconstitutional policies that cause gender diverse students in New Brunswick and in Saskatchewan (with a similar policy proposed in Alberta) to be misgendered and deadnamed at school, 2SLGBTQI students and staff have unique and pressing equality and privacy concerns.

Quick Facts

Case Status: Judgment released

Case Name: York Region District School Board v. Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario

Court: Supreme Court of Canada

Egale’s Role: Intervener

Representation: Bennett Jensen, Egale’s Director of Legal, Brendan MacArthur-Stevens and Gregory Sheppard of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Case Background

The case began as a workplace privacy issue involving two elementary school teachers, represented by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and their employer, the York Region District School Board. The teachers were disciplined based on the contents of a personal file left open on a workplace computer, which the principal of the school accessed. One of the issues raised by the case is whether the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to the actions of a school board. The Charter guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

Our Legal Arguments and What We’re Fighting For

The Supreme Court of Canada considered the foundational question of whether the Charter applies to school boards. Egale argued that the Charter does and must apply because school boards exercise governmental power over students’ lives. The Charter’s role is to guarantee that people’s rights and freedoms are respected by government institutions, and so the Charter has to apply to school boards so that students and staff are protected when school boards fulfil their mandates. Egale highlighted the unique vulnerability of 2SLGBTQI students in this context to further demonstrate the need for Charter protections.

Case Outcome

The Supreme Court decided that the Charter applies to the actions of public school boards in Ontario because they are effectively an arm of government. For that reason, it ruled that the decision by the arbitrator between the union and the school board must be set aside (overturned), as the teachers’ Charter rights should have been considered in the arbitration process.

Supporting Documents

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