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Queen's University
 

Dr. Gabor Lukás v Dr. Jon Doering and the University of Manitoba 2011 MBQB 203

Facts

On September 29, 2009, the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies attended a meeting of the “Mathematics Graduate Studies Committee” at the University of Manitoba where a decision was made to waive a number of academic requirements in order to accommodate AZ, a graduate student with a disability.  The following day, Dr. Lukás became a member of this committee following the resignation of a colleague. In March 2009, AZ failed his second Candidacy Exam and was required to withdraw from the PhD program of Mathematics. He appealed to the dean in June 2009 who decided to reinstate AZ, “without the necessity of AZ sitting for another examination, pursuant to the University’s Accessibility for students with Disabilities By-law” (8). In August, Dr. Doering rejected a joint recommendation by Disability Services and the Committee concerning accommodation for AZ. He proposed his own recommendation which was refused and then accepted with dissension by the committee.  Shortly after this, he rejected the Committee’s suggestion for resolving the problem that AZ was short a course. He proposed an alternative solution which was refused by the Committee but implemented nevertheless.  Dr. Lukás challenged the Dean’s decision by filing an appeal to the University Senate, which refused to hear the appeal due to lack of jurisdiction. Dr. Lukás turned to the Courts saying…

“The substance of the Applicant’s pleading is that Dr. Doering interfered, without authority and unreasonably, with the academic requirements in the case of student AZ… Furthermore, the interference was to the benefit of AZ and to the detriment of the University’s academic integrity and credibility, and the ability of the Applicant to perform his duties credibly insofar as PhD candidates are concerned”

The Respondent applies to dismiss the case due to Dr. Lukás’ lack of standing

Issue

1)      Does Dr. Lukás have a personal stake in the outcome of the litigation?

2)      Does Dr. Lukás have public interest standing

Decision

1)      No

2)      No

Reasons

1)      “Without belabouring the point, I fail to see any direct, legitimate personal or private interest as defined by the authorities which would grant Dr. Lukács private interest standing. He did not teach the student in question, he was only laterally a member of the Committee, he himself does not hold a degree from the U of M nor does he represent in any official capacity anyone but himself. Neither has he demonstrated any damages other than unsubstantiated statements as to what he thinks will occur if he does not succeed in his mission. His interest, as he himself acknowledges, is one of conscience which, as counsel for the respondents observed, does not in itself necessarily ground a legal proceeding” (24)

2)      The Supreme Court of Canada (Canadian Council of Churches v Canada 1992 1 SCR 235) put forward a three-part test for public interest standing:

  1. Is there a serious issue raised as to the invalidity of the legislation in question?
  2. Has it been established that the plaintiff is directly affected by the legislation or, if not, does the plaintiff have a genuine interest in its validity?
  3. Is there another reasonable and effective way to bring the issue before the court?

Lukás fails to meet that test because he fails “to raise an issue regarding the invalidity of the University of Manitoba Act”. Moreover, he fails each part of the test : “the invalidity or validity of legislation is not the issue”, (29)“Dr. Lukás has not shown that he is directly affected by any impugned legislation or that he has a genuine interest in its validity” (29) and “if the matter is not one which should come before the courts it matters ot whether there is a reasonable and effective way for it to do so”  (30)

Other reasons include

-          The University is a private entity and decisions made on its behalf are private decisions affecting the governance of the University and its academic programs (32)

-          This dispute is between a private individual and a private entity

-          “While universities are not immune from the purview of courts, case law shows that “the conferring of academic degrees is private in nature and generally the courts should exercise restraint” (35)

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000