Thunder Bay

Lakehead University to pay professor dismissed from job in 2013

A former Lakehead University professor in Thunder Bay, Ont., will receive a settlement, after being terminated in July, 2013.

Two parties to agree to settlement of costs

Lakehead University lost an arbitrator's decision, and will have to pay former professor Dr. Jean-Yves Bernard a settlement after dismissing him in 2013.

A former Lakehead University professor in Thunder Bay, Ont., will receive a settlement, after being terminated in July, 2013.

An arbitrator reached a decision in the case that spanned nearly three years, ending on March 2, 2017. The hearing took 59 days to complete, and was noted as the longest arbitrator George Surdyowski had ever completed.

What was at stake was the dismissal of Dr. Jean-Yves Bernard, who was a professor in the history department. Bernard had opposed the hiring of an employee that was to be shared with the women's studies department. 

A number of witnesses spoke at the arbitration hearing, including Lakehead University President Dr. Brian Stevenson and a number of members of Lakehead's administration. The arbitrator noted that the testimony of many of the witnesses was unreliable.

Bernard told the adjudicator that he was being discriminated against, and professor's in the women's studies department had a bias against him because of his gender. He said he was only raising valid concerns with how the hiring, among other issues were being handled.

Professors from the women's studies department noted that the behaviour of Bernard was unprofessional, and made them uncomfortable. A claim that they feared for their safety was unfounded, according to the arbitrator.

Suspensions called into question

The overall decision was to determine if a one-day suspension, five-day suspension and eventual dismissal of Bernard was justified by the university, according to the collective agreement.

In his written decision, Surdykowski found that a one-day suspension for Bernard was not completely justified, however, he ordered the university to pay a $1,000 penalty. The rationale is the university did not properly investigate the human rights complaint, launched by Bernard, that was associated with the one-day suspension. 

Surdykowski did note that a larger punishment for Bernard would have been appropriate, such as a one month unpaid suspension.

The arbitrator ruled that the five-day suspension of Bernard was justified based on his behaviour, but the dismissal of him from his role, as a tenured professor in the history department was not.

Surdykowski ruled the dismissal was all based on the same evidence that led to the one-day suspension, essentially making the dismissal a double jeopardy scenario in labour relations.

The arbitrator ruled that it would be impossible to re-instate Bernard as an employee of Lakehead, based on the soured relationship between the two parties, as well as a lack of trust.

The two sides now have to reach a settlement, as Bernard will not be back at work.

Lakehead University told CBC News it would not comment on this story.


Jeff Walters

Former CBC reporter

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff worked in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario.