Decision to uphold medical school participant’s dismissal from the program due to theft was found to be unreasonable because the appeal tribunal failed to consider the law regarding the school’s duty to accommodate the participant’s mental health disorder.

Administrative law – Decisions reviewed – University Appeal Board – Judicial review – Appeals – Standard of review – Reasonableness – Universities – Duty to accommodate – Professors – Professional governance and discipline – Professional misconduct / conduct unbecoming

Haghir v. University of Saskatchewan, [2019] S.J. No. 34, 2019 SKCA 13, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, January 30, 2019, G.R. Jackson, P.A. Whitmore and J.A. Ryan-Froslie JJ.A.

Dr. H had a history of shoplifting and was studying in the neurology program at the University of Saskatchewan medical school. He was granted admission after signing an agreement with the school confirming he would comply with his commitments to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (to continue under the care and treatment of a psychiatrist) and to the regional health authority (to not commit any further violations of the Criminal Code). He was subsequently accused of attempting to steal textbooks from the school bookstore. No criminal charges were laid but the school’s senate hearing found him responsible for the attempted theft and guilty of unprofessional conduct. The medical school terminated Dr. H’s membership in the program as a result.

Dr. H appealed to the Appeal Adjudication Board, University of Saskatchewan Appeal Board and the Court of Queen’s Bench, all of whom dismissed his appeal. Before the Court of Appeal Dr. H argued that the Appeal Board’s decision was not reasonable as it did not properly address the question of whether the school had provided reasonable accommodation of his mental health disability, which was the underlying cause of his criminal behavior, and that the Chambers Judge erred in his application of the reasonableness standard to the Appeal Board’s determination of that issue. The Court of Appeal granted Dr. H’s appeal and remitted the matter back to the Appeal Board for rehearing. The Appeal Board did not consider the law of accommodation in arriving at its decision and overlooked or disregarded material evidence. As accommodation was a key issue, the Appeal Board’s decision was not reasonable. The Chambers judge erred in his application of the reasonableness standard by failing to recognize the Appeal Board had not considered the law of accommodation and had overlooked or disregarded material evidence of Dr. H’s mental health disorder.