TORONTO - The board of trustees at the Toronto Catholic District School Board is one totally “screwed up“ organization or it is led by some incompetent, malicious staff. For three years, both have been pursuing one of their trustees with a vengeance characteristic of a bitter hatred that frankly we thought was absent from Canadian society. So, what happened?
Judges in the Del Grande v. TCDSB are tasked with sorting this out for ratepayers who still believe in in a Catholic-values- based system of education. Unfortunately, they will not be able to do it before the Board settles its internal caucus division of the electoral spoils.
Still, Judges are required to be “above the ruckus” as they review the presentations by the parties in the litigation that has taken 46 months to land on their lap. They are like ordinary folk. They have all had a mother, been young, probably fallen in love, most probably had families of their own or tried to, experienced the tensions of interpersonal relationships, maybe enjoyed some genre of music and definitely learned to read.
In a Court, those life experiences will help them answer the question a layman not so steeped in the discipline of Law will ask: “how did we get to this point; what was that about?“.
Dr. Charles Lugosi, counsel to the Plaintiff Michael Del Grande, was succinct in his summation. The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) had no legal authority to overturn their previous decision on a code of conduct matter involving one of their own trustees.
School boards are bound by the Constitution of Canada and by Provincial Statute, he said. Board policies and Statute Law are not interchangeable. Once a Board makes a “determination” in law (functus officio), only a judicial process, not the Board, can alter the decision.
The issue at hand is whether the Board was right, fair and whether it respected the integrity of the Law; or whether it succumbed to political pressure to manipulate the rules and interpretation of policies to “reverse engineer” outcomes for some unknown purpose.
Most assuredly it neither received nor considered “new facts” or previously unknown data. It most definitely did not when the Corriere followed the debate live, nor upon review of the video tapes. It definitely exposed Del Grande to “double jeopardy”.
Under any test of “reasonableness” applied to the Board’s decision-making during the entire affair, the Board fails.
When the vote(s) to overturn the determination and apply the severest of sanctions was taken, two trustees, Lubinski and Tanuan, walked out of the assembly in disgust. A third trustee, Crawford, applied the verbal exclamation mark to the result when she said, “this is abominable”! There is a video record of the transcript.
Lugosi made the point that there is no other issue for the judges to consider, despite rather oblique efforts by the Ministry of the Attorney General’s counsel to insinuate gender affirmation themes into the hearing.
The plaintiff, he emphasized, never mentioned nor referred to members of the nonbinary communities in any of his statements. Most telling, Lugosi stressed, is that if he had, he would have been sued in civil court or charged with hate speech in criminal court. Neither happened.
The case has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars so far and will cost more after the Tribunal renders its decision. Some careers may soon resemble worn out rag dolls. Was all this necessary?
Given the climate in the education milieu today, the Director of education, Brendan Browne, will wear this one; he may start to “feel a little heat”.
In the pic above, TCDSB's director Brendan Browne; in the little photo, lawyer Charles Lugosi
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