The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the North Vancouver school board’s appeal in the Azmi Jubran case, Oct 20.
The decision ends a nine-year legal battle for Jubran and holds school boards across the country liable for the discriminatory conduct of its students and for failing to curb homophobic harassment in schools. The ruling also sets a legal precedent that allows students who endure unchecked homophobic harassment to claim monetary damages.
“It means a lot,” Jubran told Xtra West Oct 25. “It’s an important point, it’s been a long time. We’ve stayed committed to it and finally it’s paid off, not just in a monetary sense, but in the sense of what’s morally right. It’s going to have an effect on all students regardless of orientation.”
Jubran says he’s carrying on with the rest of his life but that the scars don’t go away. He says it’s been a long and arduous road, but encourages people who are being harassed to fight for their rights.
“If nothing’s happening and no one’s doing anything-the schools aren’t doing anything-and there’s no one to turn to, there’s always the legal aspect. See a lawyer,” he says.
Xtra West wasn’t able to connect with Ken Neale, Safe and Caring Schools Coordinator of the North Vancouver school district before going to press, but in June Neale told Xtra West that it was the school boards’ insurer that pushed the matter to the highest court in the land. “The insurer for all school districts has made the decision because of limits on liability,” he said.
Jubran filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal in 1996 while he was a Grade 10 student at Handsworth Secondary School. The complaint alleged Jubran’s classmates taunted and bullied him all through high school with homophobic epithets. In 2002, the BC Human Rights Tribunal awarded Jubran $4,000 in damages. That ruling was overturned in 2003 and then overturned again in April, back in Jubran’s favour.
The school board’s unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was its last chance to deny responsibility for curbing homophobic harassment on playgrounds and in classrooms.