Appeals court decision follows retroactive legislation preventing refunds

Decision comes after retroactive legislation preventing refunds

KELOWNA, B.C. (CUP) – British Columbia students might want to pick up a parking pass soon, as the provincial Court of Appeal has granted UBC Vancouver’s appeal to a Supreme Court decision that challenged universities’ ability to give out parking tickets.

The decision comes after the provincial legislature passed Bill 13, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, in October, retroactively legalizing UBC's parking regulations.

Camp Fiorante Matthews, who have represented plaintiff Dan Barbour since he initiated a class action lawsuit against UBC in 2005, announced the appeal result on their website. The statement says that on Nov. 25 the B.C. Court of Appeal allowed the school’s appeal of the trial judgment “because of the effect Bill 13 has on the legal issues in the case.”

"The amendments to the legislation affirm that institutions do have the authority to regulate vehicle traffic and parking on their property," wrote Moira Stillwell, the B.C. minister for advanced education, in a statement. "Government’s view was that public post-secondary institutions always had authority over these matters."

In March, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in regards to a class action lawsuit brought about by Barbour, a Vancouver accountant, who had his vehicle towed for accumulated parking tickets while going to his dentist at UBC Vancouver. The Supreme Court ruled that UBC had been going above and beyond the powers allocated to it in the University Act.

According to Barbour, the Oct. 29th legislation and subsequent Nov. 25th ruling were disappointing, but not surprising.

"It wasn't unanticipated, [but] what I had hoped for was that the provincial government would do would be to modify the regulations so that it gave natural justice to the process," Barbour told the Canadian University Press. " They just virtually said 'whatever you've been doing in the past is alright now'. That, I found, was extremely disappointing."

Barbour raised a number of concerns with the current state of parking at UBC Vancouver – citing the lack of a traffic court similar to municipal structure and a system, he says, which puts the onus on him to contact the university to see if he has been assessed a ticket.

“That's always been my intention of what this behaviour is all about, trying to modify the university's behaviour."

Stilwell noted that universities are autonomous, and can set their own regulations.

Barbour questioned the logic of covering the actions of universities, as autonomous bodies via retroactive legislation. "Traditionally . . . retroactive legislation was there to allow the government to protect itself, not other parties. Where does it stop?" he asked. "Do logging companies, or the mining companies, or anybody who's influential enough with the provincial government, do they now get an opportunity to go to the government and say 'look, we've been doing this wrong all this time, but we'd like some retroactive legislation that says it’s OK?’"

Minister Stillwell defended the government's decision to make the bill retroactive.

"[It] will ensure that current and future users will not be negatively impacted by institutions having to pay back fines that were collected in the past," she said, noting that UBC might have had to pay up to $4 million in refunds.

"If the amendments are not made retroactive, it is estimated this would cost our institutions millions in refunds – money that would have to come from other important programs and services provided to students."

The legislation and decision spells the end for a number of parallel class-action lawsuits that had begun around the province against different universities. The Court of Appeal has not yet issued written reasons for its decision, and Barbour noted that depending on what the reasons say, there might be grounds for an appeal.

"I'm waiting to see what the words say in the judgment, whether they have completely cut this thing off at the knees or not," he said. "My suspicion is they have, that the panel of the Court of Appeal wasn't particularly sympathetic to the entire lawsuit, so I just have to wait and see."

Scott McCrae, director of public affairs at UBC, requested to have interview questions sent to him by email correspondence but did not respond to emailed questions or phone calls before the time of publication.

//Andrew Bates

CUP Western Bureau Chief

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