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Human Rights Law - Human rights legislation - Provincial legislation - Interpretation

Thursday, September 01, 2016 @ 8:00 PM  

Appeal by Baharloo from the dismissal of his application for judicial review of a decision of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (Tribunal) relating to his removal from his program. Baharloo was a Ph.D. student in the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of British Columbia. He was involuntarily withdrawn from his program based on inadequate academic progress. He appealed to the Senate Committee. Before the hearing concluded, he filed a complaint with the Tribunal alleging discrimination based on race, place of origin and mental disability. The Senate Committee dismissed the appeal. The Tribunal allowed the respondents’ application to dismiss the complaint on the basis that its substance had been appropriately dealt with in “another proceeding” within the meaning of s. 27(1)(f) of the Human Rights Code. Baharloo applied for judicial review of the decision. The reviewing judge dismissed the application finding that the Tribunal’s decision to dismiss the complaint was not patently unreasonable. The judge found that the Senate Committee hearing was “another proceeding” as defined in s. 25(1) of the Human Rights Code. He held that the Senate Committee was a statutory tribunal that had jurisdiction to decide questions of law, including the application of human rights legislation. He further found that although the parties to the complaint were different than those to the appeal, the substance of the complaint had already been addressed, as Baharloo made the same allegations in both forums. Baharloo appealed the dismissal of his application with respect to the decision of the Tribunal. He argued that the reviewing judge applied the wrong standard of review or, alternatively, wrongly applied the correct standard.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The judge correctly selected patent unreasonableness as the standard of review and properly applied that standard in upholding the decision of the Tribunal. The hearings of the Senate Committee were clearly authorized by the University Act. They constituted a “formally established system of dispute resolution”, which was the definition of a proceeding in the Tribunal’s own jurisprudence. Because a decision under s. 27(1)(f) of the Code was discretionary, the appropriate standard of review was patent unreasonableness. The reviewing judge found that the Tribunal recognized the Senate Committee had concurrent jurisdiction to apply the Code and that finding so was reasonable. She further found that Baharloo had raised discrimination in his appeal before the Senate Committee and that the Senate Committee determined those issues. Both the Tribunal and the reviewing judge addressed Baharloo’s complaints of perceived unfairness in the Senate Committee hearing and the judge’s finding that there was no unfairness was supported by the record.