ONBIDA Successful at Supreme Court of Canada in Moore v British Columbia (Ministry of Education)

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November 2012

By Jana Leggett, MHSc., SLP(C), Reg. CASLPO, President, Ontario Branch of IDA

Breaking NewsJeffrey Moore, a Canadian student from British Columbia, was diagnosed with severe dyslexia early in his public school career.  Having received limited support to meet his needs in his school, he was transferred to a local Diagnostic Centre where he was provided with specific literacy intervention. Shortly after Jeffrey’s enrollment in this special education program, the School District closed the program citing financial constraints. When the family inquired about the public school’s plan for Jeffrey’s remediation, they were advised to enroll their son in private school as the School District was not able to offer him the special education support he required. Left with few options, Jeffrey’s parents enrolled him in private school where he received the necessary intervention.

Being aware of the British Columbia School Act, which pledges to ensure that all learners develop to the best of their individual potential with the purpose to contribute to a democratic society and sustainable economy, the Moore family understood that appropriate special education was a right not a dispensable luxury. Rather than conceding, they demonstrated their commitment to Jeffrey’s access to his education by using what resources they had to fight for their son.  After a long 10 year battle, on November 9, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Jeffrey’s favour. In its decision, the Canada’s top court found that Jeffrey Moore had been denied meaningful access to the educational programs he needed to address his disability and accordingly was discriminated against in a manner that could not be reasonably justified.

The Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (ONBIDA) acted as an intervener in the appeal, arguing that children with dyslexia – just like all other children – are entitled to an education that allows them to reach their full potential. The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal held that the B.C. Ministry of Education and the local school district (both of whom are respondents in the appeal) discriminated against Jeffrey by failing to provide him with the educational program and supports he needed in light of his dyslexia.  That decision was overturned by the BC Supreme Court, and the BC Supreme Court’s decision was affirmed by the BC Court of Appeal.  The Supreme Court of Canada restored the Tribunal’s central finding of discrimination against the local school district.

Supreme Court of CanadaONBIDA is optimistic that this court decision will act as a catalyst in bringing needed changes to early identification and teacher education and training to better respond to children who struggle to learn to read and write. Our top court has made clear the priority that the Ministry of Education must make in literacy development programming, as it relates to special education for children with dyslexia.  Parents and families of children with dyslexia should take comfort from the Court’s decision, but also act to ensure that this momentum for better education access is nurtured to create an improved system for all students with dyslexia.

ONBIDA was represented pro bono by Mr.Agarwal, Mr. Chris Cummins and Rowan Weaver of the law firm Norton Case Canada LLP.  The Supreme Court of Canada decision in Moore v British Columbia (Ministry of  Education) is available here.

Click here to read the formal press release regarding the decision.

For more information call  ONBIDA at 416-716-9296 or visit www.idaontario.com.  Should you wish to hear more about ONBIDA’s intervention in the Moore case, please contact:  Mr. Rahool Agarwal, counsel to ONBIDA at 416-216-3943 or rahool.agarwal@nortonrose.com.

Jana Leggett, MHSc., SLP(C), Reg. CASLPO, is the President of the Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (ONBIDA) and a Speech Language Pathologist at Toronto District School Board.

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