Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada issued an extraordinary judgment.
The case involved a student from North Vancouver, Jeffrey Moore, who was seriously dyslexic. When the North Vancouver school board, facing a budget crisis, cut a specialized support program for students with severe learning disabilities, Moore’s family remortgaged their home and sent their son, then eight, to a specialized private school. They also filed a human rights complaint.
B.C.’s human rights tribunal initially ruled in the family’s favour, but was overturned on appeal. Last week, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the tribunal’s reasoning. It awarded the Moores every penny of private school tuition, half the costs of the transportation to the new schools, $10,000 in punitive damages, and all court costs. (The school where Jeffrey, now 25, successfully completed high school currently charges annual tuition of $25,000.)
The failure of the North Vancouver board to provide Jeffrey a comparable education in a public school, ruled the court, was discrimination. Said Justice Rosalie Abella, writing for the court: “the reason all children are entitled to an education, is because a healthy democracy and economy require their educated support. Adequate special education, therefore, is not a dispensable luxury. For those with severe learning disabilities, it is the ramp that provides access to the statutory commitment to education made to all children in British Columbia.”