Home / Press Release: BCCLA celebrates Supreme Court of Canada decision upholding privacy rights in schools

Press Release: BCCLA celebrates Supreme Court of Canada decision upholding privacy rights in schools

Ottawa, ON (unceded Anishinabe Algonquin Territory) – The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in York Region District School Board v Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, a case that would determine whether s. 8 of the Charter can protect a teacher from having their computer searched by school administrators. The Court found that Ontario school boards are inherently governmental in nature and the Charter applies to all of their actions, including searches.

The case arose from a disciplinary hearing for two elementary school teachers after the principal found materials related to a workplace dispute on one of their work laptops. On appeal, the School Board took the position that either the Charter doesn’t apply to them at all, it doesn’t apply in the employment context, or it wasn’t violated in this case.  The Court held that the Charter does apply, and the labour arbitrator’s failure to perform a constitutional analysis meant their decision to uphold the discipline was incorrect.

The BCCLA intervened to argue that regardless of the decision maker, procedure, or Charter right at issue, reviewing courts should apply the same legal framework when individuals assert that their Charter rights have been violated. This would ensure Canadians’ Charter rights are protected consistently in all circumstances.

The BCCLA welcomes the Court’s ruling that the questions of whether and how the Charter applies in a particular case must be answered consistently. Whenever the Charter does apply, administrative decision makers must faithfully heed its requirements.  

“With the trend towards more school liaison officers, or police in schools, protecting privacy rights within schools is more important than ever. This decision represents a key victory for civil liberties in Canada.”

Vibert Jack, Litigation Director for the BCCLA

The BCCLA is represented by Fraser Harland of Olthuis van Ert.