Canadian Federation of Students v. Ontario, 2019 ONSC 6658

Ontario Superior Court Of Justice Divisional Court

[1] On December 12, 2018, the Ontario Cabinet directed the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to direct colleges and universities to “allow” students to opt-out of “fees related to student associations” and other “ancillary fees”. The Minister implemented this direction on March 29, 2019 by issuing the “Student Choice Initiative” in “policy directives” for colleges and “guidelines” for universities in Ontario (collectively, the “impugned directives”).

[2] The Applicants, two student associations, seek judicial review to quash the impugned directives. They argue that:

a. the impugned directives are inconsistent with the statutory schemes regulating colleges and universities in Ontario;

b. the impugned directives were made for an improper purpose and in bad faith; and

c. the Minister’s failure to notify or consult student associations prior to announcing and issuing the impugned directives breached a duty of procedural fairness owed to the applicants and other student associations.

[3] Ontario argues that the matters raised in the application are not justiciable as the impugned directives are either “core policy decisions” based on social, economic and political considerations, or are exercises of the Crown prerogative power over public spending. Such decisions, Ontario argues, are not reviewable by the court absent bad faith or irrationality, neither of which are established in this case.

[4] The University of Toronto Graduate Students Union intervenes to argue in support of the Applicants. B’Nai Brith intervenes to argue in support of Ontario’s position on the basis that it respects the freedom of choice of students who do not support their student associations.