Moore v Ministry of Education specifically concerns discrimination against severely learning-disabled (SLD) students, but the Supreme Court of Canada decision on the case will have important implications for many others experiencing discrimination.
Jeffrey Moore, a student with severe dyslexia, required significant special education to meet his educational needs. When the school district cancelled its special education program, citing financial reasons, Moore’s father filed a claim with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. He believed the District and the Ministry had discriminated against Jeffrey and other SLD students by failing to accommodate their disabilities as guaranteed in the BC Human Rights Code, especially considering the District had maintained funding for other discretionary programs, such as an outdoor school.
Although the Human Rights Tribunal agreed, the BC Supreme Court overturned that decision on judicial review. A majority of the BC Court of Appeal upheld the BC Supreme Court’s decision, and Moore appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
- Application for leave to intervene – Supreme Court of Canada
- Factum – Supreme Court of Canada
- Decision – Supreme Court of Canada
West Coast LEAF’s Involvement
West Coast LEAF was granted leave to intervene at the Supreme Court of Canada. We believe this case is extremely important to equality law in Canada. It demonstrates that we can and must hold government agencies accountable for creating and operating public programs that are truly accessible to everyone.
At trial, we made two arguments:
- The two distinct tests for discrimination under human rights law and the Charter must be kept separate in order to ensure that equality seekers have the best tools available to them to redress discrimination; and
- Even where financial constraints exist, governments must prioritize human rights and equality.
The Supreme Court of Canada found that the closure of the program was discriminatory. The Court also found that this discrimination was not justified, despite the financial circumstances, because the school district failed to consider the impact of the program’s closure and other options of saving money. The Court agreed that governments must prioritize human rights and equality when making budget cuts.
This decision is final and will have implications for how children with disabilities are educated, how special education is prioritized in schools, and how governments make funding cuts where human rights and equality are concerns.
It doesn’t mean that governments can never justify cutting these kinds of programs – just that where cuts are made, they need to consider all of their options and prioritize those services required to ensure respect for human rights.