Success in the Court of Appeal on the so-called “Student Choice Initiative”
Law Times talks to Geetha Philipupillai and Louis Century
In November 2019, the Divisional Court quashed the Ford government’s so-called “Student Choice Initiative“. That initiative attempted to interfere with the funding of student associations.
On August 4, 2021, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the Ford government’s appeal of that decision. The Law Times spoke to Geetha Philipupillai and Louis Century about the Court of Appeal’s decision:
“This ruling confirms that the Minister must exercise policy-making functions in accordance with the statutory backdrop governing Ontario universities and colleges,” says Geetha Philipupillai, who acted for York Federation of Students (YFS) and Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) in the case. “… It’s not surprising or controversial that the Court of Appeal confirmed that the supremacy of the legislature trumps ministerial authority. All six judges of the Court of Appeal and Divisional Court who have heard this case have agreed on this point.”
The Court of Appeal affirmed that University Acts give decision-making authority to boards and senates to insulate universities from “intrusion and interference in their internal affairs” by the province, says Louis Century, a civil litigator at Goldblatt Partners LLP, who also acted for the YFS and CFS.
“This model of governance dates back to the early 20th century and the Court relied on expert evidence describing the history and purpose of autonomous university governance,” he says. “Given the important role that student unions play in university governance, Ontario’s directions were inconsistent with the governance autonomy enshrined in the University Acts.”
Similarly, the [Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act] gives legislative rights to student governments to ensure their autonomy in colleges, says Century.