PEI Press Gallery Dragged Back To Court

Journalist with a disability files Motion in Supreme Court to dismiss PEI Press Gallery’s judicial review

Stephen Pate (Guardian Photo)

Stephen Pate’s Motion asks the PEI Supreme Court to dismiss the Application for Judicial Review filed by the Press Gallery on April 29, 2013.

Pate has asked the Court to send the matter back to the  Human Rights tribunal where a full hearing on the facts can be held. 

“The Judicial Review application is a stall,” said Pate. “The Press Gallery don’t want the public to hear how bigoted and nasty they can be.”

In October 2009, the PEI Press Gallery met for the 2nd time in its 38-year history to eject the sometimes controversial Pate.

“Quite frankly, the executive believes there is no room in the inn,” said Press Gallery President Wayne Thibodeau about Pate, using a rather odd Biblical reference to preface his remarks.  Most scholars attribute that remark to prejudice against Joseph and Mary who were from the town of Bethlehem.

Wayne Thibodeau, no room in the inn for journalists in wheelchairs (Facebook photo)

Pate publishes NJN Network.

Subsequently Pate filed a Human Rights Complaint and got the go-ahead for an HR Tribunal hearing,

“In a full Human Rights hearing, all the evidence will come out,” said Pate. “There is no way a Canadian professional society should be able to blatantly discriminate against people with disabilities.”

“I believe the Human Rights panel will find that the Press Gallery did discriminate by removing my press pass. They had a lot of petty excuses but it boils down to the fact I am a disabled blogger and advocate for the disabled along with my job as a journalist. They never had to deal with a wheelchair-bound journalist before and primal instincts overrode logic.”

“The revelations of corruption in the ranks of journalist/senators like Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin have given everyone a taste of how he media can betray public trust,” said Pate.

In his Motion, Pate argues the Press Gallery disclosed no reasonable ground for judicial review. The HR Chairperson’s exercise of authority in her Decision was reasonable, argues Pate. She did not dismiss the Complaint at the review stage and referred it to a Human Rights Panel or tribunal for a full hearing and determination of its merits.

The Press Gallery’s application for Judicial Review is trying to have the Court weigh the evidence. Prior to the Tribunal, the Chairperson only has to find reasonable evidence that discrimination occurred, even if the evidence is contradictory.

Listening to and weighing evidence in a Human Rights Complaint is the role of the Tribunal, where the facts are heard and the Tribunal makes a decision about what to believe.

On PEI and the rest of Canada, the Chairperson is supposed to make decisions on the basis of reasonableness. That was decided by the Court of Appeals in several cases including Ayangma v French School Board (2002 PESCAD 5). Ayangma v. Eastern School Board, (2004 PESCAD 230 and Ayangma v. Eastern School Board, (2005 PESCAD 18).

A 2012 Supreme Court decision in Halifax (Regional Municipality) v. Nova Scotia (Human Rights Commission), ruled that a reviewing court on judicial review of a Human Rights matter should only intervene if there is no reasonable basis in law or on the evidence to support it.

The Supreme Court called judicial reviews before the Human Rights Tribunal a waste of time.  Early judicial intervention deprives the court of a full record of the evidence, should a judicial review be required later, “encouraging inefficient multiplicity of legal proceedings.”

In that case it took over 8 years to get back to the beginning and have the Nova Scotia Tribunal hear the complaint.

A human rights tribunal can be held within a few months. Judicial Reviews take years to decide. When the CBC asked for a judicial review of the Privacy Commissioner in the PNP scandal, 2 and 1/2 years to get a decision.

“It’s just a stall tactic,” a retired principal told Pate.

None of the allegations in Pate’s Complaint, nor those in the Press Gallery application and Motion to Dismiss have been proven in court.

The Press Gallery has not commented on Pate’s Application to Dismiss their application.

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