Kitchener-Waterloo

University of Waterloo to review appeal court ruling for prospective student with brain injury

The University of Waterloo says it will review a ruling by the Court of Appeal that says the school discriminated against a Waterloo region man they refused admission to because of poor grades.

Ontario court of appeal ruled UW discriminated against a man with a brain injury

Roch Longueépée says a recent Court of Appeal ruling in his favour 'sets a new precedent for people with disabilities and people who are institutional abuse survivors.' (Submitted by Roch Longueépée)

The University of Waterloo says it is reviewing an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that says it discriminated against a Waterloo region man with a brain injury and poor grades.

Roch Longueépée has a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress (PTSD). When he first applied to the university in 2013, he was turned down due to his low marks. He explained his poor grades were due to his previously undiagnosed and unaccommodated disability. He also provided reference letters, writing samples, and information about his volunteer work.

The university turned him down as unlikely to succeed.

The Court of Appeal ruled last month that "the university fell short in the performance of its express undertaking to provide accommodation" for Longueépée.

The University of Waterloo has until Feb. 22 to review the ruling and to serve and file an application to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Decision 'sets a new precedent'

Longueépée says it has been a long eight years since he first filed a complaint and the results were better than he expected.

"I think that this sets a new precedent for people with disabilities and people who are institutional abuse survivors ... That they will be given a fair chance when they're applying through the admission process through a post-secondary institution," Longueépée said in an interview.   

Laura Lepine is an associate at Baker Law in Toronto and represented Longueépée. She says the decision does not strictly affect the University of Waterloo, but will apply equally for all universities.

"The universities need to do more than just recognize that they need to take substantive action to consider what the application actually looks like," said Lepine.

"The decision is saying there's a positive obligation to accommodate applicants. And in some cases, like in Roch's case, that means evaluating them individually and realistically. Even though universities are entitled to considerable deference when they're setting their admissions procedures."

The Ontario Court of Appeal also handed the matter to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to determine next steps to provide compliance with the code.

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