Thompson Rivers University

Access to education: Are BC students best-served by legal remedy?

  Posted on: February 6, 2017

Associate Professor Margaret Hall

Associate Professor Margaret Hall

Children with learning disabilities are guaranteed equal access to education through BC’s Human Right’s Code, but Margaret Hall suspects some children and their families are falling through the cracks because they aren’t aware of the legal remedy available.

Supported by a grant from the Law Foundation of BC’s Legal Research Fund, Hall, an associate professor in the Faculty of Law, aims to discover the prevalence of human rights complaints as they relate to discrimination on the basis of learning disabilities. She’ll also examine the accessibility of the current human rights remedy available to families before pinpointing whether there are better, more accessible solutions that provide access to justice and access to education.

Hall is joined on the project, “Assessing the Human Rights Remedy After Moore v British Columbia (Education),” by UBC’s Dr. Jennifer Baumbusch.

The research is inspired by the 2012 case, Moore v. British Columbia (Education) in which the Supreme Court agreed with the BC Human Rights Tribunal that the claimant, a boy in North Vancouver, had been deprived of his right to meaningfully access BC’s education system due to a lack of learning support for his severe dyslexia. The school district encouraged the child’s parents to send him to a costly private school. The family did so, but also brought the case forward to the Human Rights Tribunal.

Read: Research aims to improve support for people with dementia, InsideTRU, June 16, 2016

The school district appealed, but the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the family, though it rejected the tribunal’s notion that it step in to ensure the ruling was adopted, and instead suggested the legal ruling and the available Human Rights Remedy was adequate.

“We have doubts,” said Hall. “Not everyone has the resources to bring a case to the Human Rights Tribunal, and of those who may know of the ruling, most wouldn’t know where to begin.”

In short, Hall wishes to answer the question: Is the current legal remedy working for British Columbia’s special needs students and for their families?

“Students with special needs have a right to mainstream, public education and the public education system is required to provide adequate support,” she said. “If parents know this human rights remedy exists, are they likely to use it, or are they more likely to be intimidated and overwhelmed by the process?

“The ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada cannot create real change unless it is put into practice by the people on the ground — parents. We want to know how easy or difficult it is for parents to take on this task.”

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Margaret Hall