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CAUT Bulletin Archives

June 2009

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Stonechild Case

Blair Stonechild [File Photo]
Blair Stonechild [File Photo]
The Supreme Court of Canada ended the University of Re­gina faculty association’s lengthy attempt to defend professor Blair Stonechild’s academic freedom by denying its request for leave to appeal.

When Stonechild, a professor of indigenous studies at First Nations University, was removed as a speaker at an Assembly of First Nations conference, at the uni­versity, URFA filed an academic freedom grievance because the FNUniv board chair Vice-Chief Morley Watson indicated support for Stonechild’s removal.

The arbitrator found in favour of Stonechild, and the university failed to have it reversed at judicial review. Subsequently, the university took the matter to the court of appeal which reversed the decision.

The appeal court decision stands as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case. No reasons are given by the Supreme Court.

“What that means is Watson’s actions were deemed not to have violated the academic freedom provisions of the collective agreement between the faculty association and the university,” said CAUT executive director James Turk.

“But like the arbitrator, we continue to feel Watson’s actions were wrong and infringed on Stonechild’s academic freedom,” he added. “Since the court decided Watson’s conduct didn’t violate academic freedom as defined in the collective agreement, we hope a better description of academic freedom can be negotiated in the next round of bargaining.”

He said now that the case is over, it’s important the university administration and board turn their attention to fixing the governance structure, an issue that led to CAUT’s decision last year to censure the university.

“We hope the board’s latest commission on governance — that was due to report last month — will bring forward changes that will fix the problem and allow censure of the institution to be lifted,” Turk said.