Court awards school board $25k for legal fees

How the decision to award damages finally brings a long and stressful year for PCVS supporters to a close

Peterborough Collegiate Vocational School (photo by Pat Trudeau)
Peterborough Collegiate Vocational School (photo by Pat Trudeau)

So the courts have decided, and Peterborough Needs PCVS (PNP) needs to pay $25,000 to the school board for legal costs associated with their legal battle last spring.

Luckily for PNP, that’s a far cry from the more than $180,000 the board requested.

This happens all the time in court cases. Disagreements happen, people seek counsel, the potential risks are explained, and people continue on to court to fight the good fight — all the while knowing that they may lose. It’s a tough battle but, if you feel strongly in your cause, a necessary one.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose; but in both cases people understand the risk. They understand that even though they’re fighting for a cause that feels just, the court may disagree. They understand that if the court disagrees, it could get really expensive.

In my opinion, PNP lucked out big time with this decision. Although they were hoping they wouldn’t have to pay any of the board’s legal costs as they were fighting for a public interest, this is still a pretty good outcome for them. After all, they could have been handed a bill for $180k.

The Peterborough Examiner published an article by Rob McCormick on January 1 outlining the court’s decision. In it, he interviewed Diane Lloyd from the school board who voiced her pleasure on the issue finally being resolved.

What was missing from the article was the PNP perspective, and not because Mr. McCormick didn’t try; PNP simply declined comment — a reoccurring issue throughout the process.

PNP has declined comment on multiple occasions and continues to decline comment on just how much money was raised by donations for the PNP legal fund. The one trait a group like PNP needs is transparency, and it’s the one thing that been missing for me throughout the conclusion of this process. I understand that you want to play your cards close to your chest, but the decision has been made and, if you donated money to this cause, I think you’re owed an explanation.

Transparency aside, in retrospect the PNP game plan seems to have been misguided. Reviewing the statement from the courts, it’s clear that the PNP was making sweeping arguments over issues that didn’t pertain to the Accommodation Review Process (ARC) process. The court seemed frustrated by the direction of PNP and the more than 1200 pages of documents that were required to be reviewed.

The court admitted that PNP were fighting for a public interest but, when discussing the decision to award the board with legal fees, touched on PNP’s timing of litigation (April 2012) and their “no holds barred” approach. The school board (in all its smugness) maintains that it should have been awarded full costs, but it remains happy with the decision.

Some people commenting online and on places like Twitter have been extremely articulate and respectful. Other people have chosen to resort to name calling and to referencing abortion. Some people are angry at the court for deciding in favour of the board, not once but twice.

I’m not happy with the court’s decision to rule in favour of the board regarding the ARC process. I’m not happy about the court deciding to award legal costs either, but all involved are grown, intelligent, and aware human beings who understood the process and the risks at hand. I’m sure due diligence was done and, unfortunately for PNP supporters, the risks ended up being costly.

Let me make something very clear here: I supported the movement to save PCVS. I didn’t think that relocating the students and repurposing the building was a good idea, and I applauded the passionate efforts by those who protested, posted signs and signed petitions. I feel that the ARC process is broken and that the board is unbalanced because of the size of the geography that it covers. I also feel that the court’s decision to award $25,000 to the board for legal fees is more than fair.

It was understood going into this that this could be the case. The fight was fought, valiantly I might add. Sadly, it was lost and now it’s time to clean up after the dust has finally settled.

Rude and unintelligent comments or arguments don’t help anyone or anything. Whether you supported PNP or the board, it can’t be denied that some people in our little city put up a good fight for a cause that they believe in. They didn’t start fires and loot businesses; they planned peaceful protest and challenged the system.

My hope, now that this has come to an end, is that this process isn’t remembered for failed court cases or brash online arguments. I hope people don’t look back and reference name-calling or bigotry.

My hope, is that when we look back at PCVS, we remember an incredible group of students and supporters that fought for something they believed in, a student body that made it onto national television, and the one blaring example of a generation accused of being lazy and passive being anything but.