⚖️ Basic math

To: Hearsay Readers

TODAY’S DOCKET

  • Equality: Math proficiency requirement for teachers doesn’t discriminate

  • Round up: Censured MPP sues Legislative Assembly, Saskatchewan follows Alberta’s lead, mega spa shielded from assessments

EQUALITY

ONCA says math test for teachers is not discriminatory

Desk in school classroom with paper, pencils, and calculator. Paper shows a grade of B+

Ontario’s future teachers need to take a math proficiency test after all. The Divisional Court said that testing teaching candidates on their math skills before letting them teach had a discriminatory impact on racialized groups, but the Court of Appeal reversed that decision yesterday.

What happened: In response to falling math scores, Ontario decided every prospective teacher needs to pass a math test before getting their license — even those who don’t plan on teaching math. The test is pretty reasonable though. It covers questions up to a Grade 9 level and candidates can take the test as many times as they want.

Teachers argued the test was discriminatory against members of disadvantaged groups. When the case made it to court, the test had only been administered once. The data showed 91% of White candidates passed on the first try, compared to only 70% of Black candidates and 71% of Indigenous candidates. There hadn’t been much opportunity for rewrites, but the Court wasn’t willing to delay the hearing to wait on that data.

Based on the initial statistics, the Divisional Court said the test violates the Charter’s guarantee of equality and forced Ontario to scrap it.

On appeal: Ontario showed up for round two with updated data. 98% of people who retook the test were successful, including racialized candidates. The total success rate ended up being 90% for Black candidates. The success rate for Indigenous candidates remained low, at 72%, but the sample size was only 47 test takers.

Updated stats in hand, the Court of Appeal reversed the initial decision.

  • The Divisional Court should have waited for more information. The evidence was incomplete, raising concerns about statistical significance. That alone is enough to overturn the decision.

  • The test also doesn’t have an adverse impact. The difference in success rates for White candidates and racialized candidates is not significant enough to be concerned about. And those numbers can only improve because unsuccessful candidates still have an opportunity to rewrite the test.

  • Even if it had an adverse impact, that impact is not discriminatory. Ontario put in a bunch of work to make the test fair, including reviewing the questions and test format for equity concerns — the test responds to the actual capacities and needs of racialized candidates.

Decision report card:

◻️◻️◻️😃◻️ Factual interest

◻️◻️◻️😃◻️ Legal interest

◻️◻️◻️◻️🧮 Skill testing questions

HEARSAY ROUNDUP

Canadiana

🏛 Ontario MPP Sarah Jama is suing the province and its Legislative Assembly. Jama was censured last month following her statements about Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel — the Speaker of the House won’t recognize her in debate until she retracts her statements and apologizes. Jama says the House and the Speaker can’t restrict her freedom of expression by treating her that way. The lawsuit raises some interesting questions about parliamentary privilege.

🚂 CN Rail is suing a group of pro-Palestinian protesters after they blocked a rail line in Winnipeg for several hours. The company wants an injunction to prevent further demonstrations.

🔌 Saskatchewan is making use of the Saskatchewan First Act (little sibling to Alberta’s Sovereignty Act). The Act asserts Saskatchewan’s exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources and authorizes action in response to federal policies the province doesn’t like. Saskatchewan is using the law to create a tribunal that will review Canada’s draft Clean Electricity Regulations and recommend next steps. 

🧖Ontario tabled legislation to exempt the mega spa component of its Ontario Place redevelopment from provincial planning, heritage, and environmental assessments. The legislation will likely frustrate the current legal challenge to the development, brought by advocacy group Ontario Place for All.

Beyond the border

⛏ A Canadian mining company needs to renegotiate its contract with Panama. The country’s Supreme Court said the current deal is unconstitutional.

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