[My Ontario Teacher + Union Acronym Guide list is @ Dictionary]
The Reinstate Richard Brock Campaign.
Supporters of the MoU in the units and in the bureaucracy were bitterly disappointed with Mr. O’Dwyer’s defeat. Thus, it came as no surprise that some advocates for the MoU lodged a complaint against Richard Brock, the leading anti-MoU voice in our Association. What did come as a surprise was the outcome of that complaint and the procedures and process employed in arriving at that outcome. This article concentrates on the procedures and the process concerns but for completeness I must briefly comment on the punishment.
The discipline panel that tried Richard Brock declared that in their judgment he had injured in some manner the interests of the Association. As punishment, they suspended his membership privileges for two years, which automatically set aside his election as president of the Halton Elementary Unit. This discipline panel meted out one of the most severe punishments in our Association’s seventy-year history, a penalty of such extreme severity that it inevitably raises questions whether the punishment fits the crime. A puzzling aspect of the Brock case is determining the exact offence he is supposed to have committed. The sole body that has unambiguous authority to declare the interests of the Association is the Provincial Executive. In this case the Provincial Executive failed to warn Mr. Brock that his conduct was injurious to the interests of the association (that finding was made by the panel at a much later date) which contradicts OECTA’s long standing insistence that our employers must warn teachers and at least offer some corrective intervention before administering severe punishment or dismissal. When dealing with our employers, we object to any form of ambush, insisting on documentation and warnings before action is taken. What justifies OECTA to conduct its internal affairs by a markedly inferior standard to what we demand from our employers? It is an outrage.
Furthermore, the punishment took no account of many extenuating and mitigating circumstances far too numerous to list in this article. For example, because the MoU was so poorly negotiated, many implementation problems arose that the secretariat could not easily resolve which resulted in a near shutdown in the information flow out to the units. This lack of clarity resulted in all unit presidents operating in the dark to some degree and with the presidents of the more disadvantaged units wrestling with intensely confusing and frustrating problems—Richard Brock was one such president. He repeatedly asked for information, direction and clarity from the executive and the secretariat, and just as repeatedly, he received no answer. Given the prevailing climate of tension and division created by the MoU, the penalty imposed on Richard Brock strikes me as wildly disproportionate to his alleged offence.
When reviewing the process and procedures in the Brock trial, one must remember that OECTA is a democratic association. Democracy is a method of self-governance that allows the voters to overturn the rulers without a bloody civil war. However, a democratic victory is tempered by a legal obligation to respect the rule of law. All mature democracies have the plebiscite and the rule of law, and OECTA is no exception. In the disciplining of Richard Brock, an appointed tribunal set aside the valid election of a unit president. Elections belong to all members of the Association and it is a grave matter for an appointed tribunal to undo an election as punishment—the issue goes to the core of who we are. All members of OECTA not only have a stake in the democratic process of our Association but also have a duty to preserve and protect that process.
For the past two decades, the Ontario courts have consistently set higher standards of procedural fairness in administrative justice cases, especially when those cases affect the individual’s ability to earn their income. A legitimate discipline process must respect two principles of natural justice: 1). “nemo judex in sua propria causa debet esse” – no person, faction, group or body should be a judge in their own case or more simply said— the process must be free from bias; 2) “Audi alteram partem” the other side has a right to be heard in full. The standard for a tribunal today is that it must not only fulfill the requirements of the procedure but it must go the extra mile to ensure the process is fair and just. In the celebrated words of a great British jurist, “it is not merely of some importance, but of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly be seen to be done." I anticipate unanimity on fairness because no member of OECTA wants anything less than an absolutely fair, impartial, legitimate, professional and just disciplinary process.
Mr. Jarvis referred the complaint to the discipline board, whose chairperson, Mr. Ryan, was then obliged to:
These procedures are formal and they correspond with Robert’s Rules of Order Page 663, “FORMAL NOTIFICATION OF THE OFFICER OR MEMBER”. As a reminder, OECTA’s constitution stipulates that:
Much confusion has arisen regarding the discipline board, the chairperson of the discipline board, the discipline panel, and the chairperson of the discipline panel. The board and its chairperson are provided for in the by-laws, while the three-member panel and its chairperson are selected by the board chairperson under OECTA’s Procedures. A particular discipline panel has no authority to set its own procedures and policies on evidence, otherwise we must contemplate the possibility whereby two members are tried for the same offense under radically different rules of procedure, a possibility that must be summarily rejected.
In summary: A valid presidential election for the Halton Elementary Unit was set aside by an appointed three-member discipline panel. The panel denied Mr. Brock his constitutional right to call witnesses in his defence on the basis of their procedural rule of demanding will-say statements, a rule emanating from guidelines they refused to disclose to the defense. The discipline panel emanates from a discipline board whose members, contrary to our by-laws, hold office without receiving the sanction of the Provincial Executive, members whose individual terms of office are indeterminable and could even be expired. It is a travesty of justice when a tribunal which cannot establish its own legitimacy sets aside a valid election on the strength of a legal technicality that it had created without the authority of the Handbook, Robert’s Rules of Order or our AGM.
The Provincial Executive is empowered to run the association between AGM’s in accordance with the constitution and by-laws of our Association. I call on the executive to declare the discipline board vacant because the legitimacy of its appointed members cannot be established, and/or to set aside the decisions of the discipline panel because the procedure followed by the panel violated Mr. Brock’s constitutional right to have disclosure of the rules of procedure and to call witnesses in his defence.