Geetha Philipupillai and Louis Century talk to The Lawyer’s Daily
Ruling quashing student fees initiative highlights limits of executive power, counsel say
The Lawyer’s Daily spoke to Geetha Philipupillai and Louis Century about their recent victory in the Divisional Court on behalf of university student associations. In its decision, the Court struck down the Ford government’s attempt to require universities and colleges to prevent student associations from receiving student fees that had been democratically determined and supported by students.
Geetha and Louis outlined the nature of the evidence they presented in court, and noted that the decision is “reflective of the ‘core public law principles regarding the limits to executive power.'”
Louis Century and Geetha Philipupillai, of Goldblatt Partners LLP and counsel for the applicants, said the Divisional Court affirmed the “important services and advocacy provided by student associations across Ontario, and the vital role played by student associations in college and university life.”
Philipupillai explained that they worked closely with their clients to convey to the court “what student associations are, how they are governed, the democratic processes through which they determine fees, and the impact they have on behalf of students.”
“On a personal level, Geetha and I are both alumni of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and volunteered at its student legal clinic, Downtown Legal Services (DLS), whose referendum levy was made optional as a result of the SCI. We were privileged to be able to work with DLS to put forward evidence on how the SCI would affect student legal clinics in particular. In the end, the court accepted that student legal clinics ‘depend on stable and secure funding to plan, allocate and deliver legal services to vulnerable clients,’” added Century.
Philipupillai noted that the court’s decision “reflects core public law principles regarding the limits to executive power.”
“After reviewing the statutory schemes for colleges and universities, the court found that the minister’s directives were inconsistent with those schemes. Even the Crown’s prerogative over spending is limited by statute. The court also reaffirmed that the legality, as opposed to the wisdom, of executive action is justiciable,” she said.