A judge reserved his decision Monday on whether to quash a human rights tribunal decision after hearing arguments from lawyers for the University of British Columbia and a former student who alleges the school mishandled her sexual assault complaint.
The school’s Okanagan campus wants the court to throw out a 2018 decision by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, which found partly in favour of Stephanie Hale. It denied the university’s application to dismiss her complaint last year.
Hale claimed in her complaint that she experienced discrimination on the basis of sex and disability after she reported the alleged assault to various university employees starting in January 2013 and they failed to direct her to the relevant resources.
The tribunal accepted part of the complaint against the university for a contravention of the Human Rights Code between February 2016 and March 2017 when Hale was going through the school’s non-academic misconduct process.
The tribunal dismissed the other parts of Hale’s complaint related to events before February 2016, noting it was filed outside a six-month limitation period.
The Canadian Press does not typically identify complainants in cases of sexual assault, but Hale wants her name used.
She says in documents filed with the tribunal that she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student in January 2013. The student has denied the allegations, saying what happenedwas consensual.
Clea Parfitt, Hale’s lawyer, argued Monday that there is a connection between the harm Hale says she experienced during the university’s handling of the alleged assault and her identity as a woman.
Parfitt said case law defines adverse impact discrimination as occurring when a seemingly neutral law, policy or procedure has a disproportionate affect on a protected group.
She also said the tribunal considered evidence that showed the school’s processes were harmful to Hale, while the university itself acknowledged that its procedures could have been better.
Michael Wagner, a lawyer for the school, told the court that UBC Okanagan agrees women are disproportionately victims of sexual assault, but he argued the case hinges on access to institutional systems or process rather than adverse impacts.
Justice David Crossin has reserved his decision until at least Friday, when lawyers for the school are expected to make another submission after reviewing a case relied on by Parfitt.
Hale reported the alleged assault to a residence adviser a week after she says it happened. Tribunal documents say she was directed to a campus medical facility, where she was not physically examined.
She says university employees she talked to in the weeks after the alleged incident failed to provide her with full information about the options open to her, including referring her to the school’s equity and inclusion office or its policies on sexual harassment.
Hale complained to the tribunal that contact with her alleged attacker in class contributed to her declining mental and physical health before she left the program in December 2015.
She was also diagnosed with anxiety after the incident.
The tribunal documents show Hale was referred to UBC’s equity and inclusion office in Vancouver in February 2016 after she reported the alleged assault to the dean of engineering the previous April.
In March 2016 she was told campus security would investigate the alleged assault. Its report was referred to the school’s non-academic misconduct committee.
Hale’s complaint to the tribunal says Hale found that process discriminatory and unduly demanding.
The committee met without Hale in November 2016 after her psychologist recommended she should not participate because she didn’t trust the process. University president Santa Ono dismissed Hale’s complaint against the other student in February 2017, citing a lack of evidence.