Court rejects $200-million class action suit

Students who filed a class action lawsuit against 24 colleges for illegal ancillary fees search for answers

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Students are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to colleges and universities charging illegal ancillary fees.

Last week, the Ontario Superior Court rejected a $200-million class action lawsuit against charging illegal ancillary fees.

Students Amanda Hassum and Daniel Roffey filed the lawsuit in June 2007 against 24 community colleges across Ontario who allegedly used ancillary fees to fund costs normally covered by tuition.

According to the Honourable Justice Joan L. Lax the issue was political, not legal.

Roffey, representative plaintiff for the case, was surprised at the ruling.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” he said, adding, “I definitely don’t regret bringing this lawsuit forward. I think at the very least, it’s helped raise awareness about the issue.”

Now the two students have no choice but to address their concerns directly to the government, which has been ducking questions on the issue for months.

Although Dalton McGuinty criticized the 1993 Conservative government for ignoring the problem of illegal ancillary fees, he has remained silent since becoming premier.

The province’s Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities John Milloy has also kept his mouth closed, refusing to comment while the case was in the justice system.

Although he sent a letter earlier this year warning all university and college presidents against extra ancillary fees, Roffey said the minister has done nothing to enforce his stance.

Now the case is out of the courts and Roffey is demanding action from the government.

“The way is clear for him to step forward and bring the colleges in line with his own policy,” he said.

Kevin Dove, a ministry spokesperson, declined to comment: “Because now there’s an appeal period ... it’s inappropriate for us to comment on specifics related to that issue.”

As a result, Hassum and Roffey have turned to the public to put pressure on the government.

“What we’re looking for is a little more grassroots support. It’s now about getting students on the ground to do something,” Roffey explained.

Currently, universities are able to charge ancillary fees to make up for lack of government funding. Roffey hoped politicians would change their policies if enough pressure came from students.

He also asked student unions to be more careful when reviewing university financial statements, criticizing councils for rubber-stamping the documents.

University Students’ Council President Tom Stevenson explained why that is not a problem at Western: “For the university to increase any sort of ancillary fee, it has to be voted on by students.” He added, “We’ve done more than our due diligence to make sure we’re fully a part of the process.”

While Roffey is disappointed about the court’s decision, he is willing to do whatever it takes to hold schools accountable.

“Whether through political means or legal at this point ... I’m willing to go with whichever route will work.”

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette