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Court hears Ontario students’ fight over opt-out of supplementary fees

October 12, 2019

The CBC reports on a challenge by student groups to the Ford Government’s interference with student fees

The Canadian Federation of Students and York Federation of Students took the provincial government to court on Friday, challenging a government order giving students the option to pay some non-tuition fees. As Doug Ford said in a fundraising email earlier this year, “I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to.”

Represented by Mark Wright, Louis Century, and Geetha Philipupillai, the student groups argued that the order was “a politically motivated attack on student unions and services that threatens university independence.”

As the CBC reports:

The autonomy of universities is threatened,” lawyer Mark Wright told the three-judge panel … [and] the order was made for an “improper purpose and in bad faith.”

From the outset, the lawyer said, the minister targeted student associations. The government’s list of what it considers essential fees students must pay is arbitrary and was made without consultation, Wright said.

Wright said that condition violates legislation barring ministerial interference in the independence of university governance, and “normal activities” of elected student bodies should also be off-limits.

At one point, Justice David Corbett asked whether the government has a legitimate interest in keeping ancillary fees low as part of overall affordability. But the student groups’ co-counsel Louis Century said the government has gone too far.

“If they can intrude on the existence of a student government to function on campus, why can’t they intrude on tenure or anything else?” Century said.

[One of the judges] gave the government’s lawyers a rough ride, pummelling them with questions about the rationale for a change they struggled to explain.

“There’s no principled explanation other than, ‘Cabinet said so,”‘ Corbett said at one point.

The justice also questioned whether Ontario was being candid about what prompted the measures.

Read the entire article here.

Lawyers

Louis Century, Geetha Philipupillai, Mark Wright

Practice Areas

Appeals & Judicial Review, Civil Litigation