University of Calgary

Court of Appeal dismisses Pridgen v. University of Calgary

UToday HomeMay 10, 2012

The University of Calgary has received and is currently reviewing the Reasons for Judgment of the Alberta Court of Appeal in Pridgen v. University of Calgary. In fall 2011, the university appealed the Court of Queen’s Bench Justice J. Strekaf’s November 2010 decision that dealt with the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) in relation to two students who had been disciplined under the university’s non-academic misconduct policy.

“The Court of Appeal has now decided that the university’s decision to discipline the students should be set aside on the basis of administrative law principles,” said Peter T. Linder, Q.C., the University of Calgary’s external legal counsel on this case.

The Court of Appeal decision is complicated and each of the three Judges wrote separate judgements. Only one of the Judges addressed the issue of whether the Charter applies to the activities carried out by the university in fulfilling its statutory mandate under the Post Secondary Learning Act. In addressing that issue, the Judge was careful to point out that being obliged to respect the Charter in disciplinary proceedings does not mean that the university loses its autonomy or independence from government in other respects, particularly when it comes to its core academic functions. The remaining two Judges found it unnecessary to consider the application of the Charter in the context of disciplinary proceedings.

The University of Calgary acknowledges that this case identified the need for improvements to its non-academic misconduct policy. To that end, the university has already revised its disciplinary policy. This included centralizing non-academic misconduct procedures in order to make them consistent for all students across campus, and to bring them in line with best practices from other Canadian universities.

The university will be considering the full implications of the Court of Appeal’s decision over the coming weeks.


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