The Yukon College board has decided not to appeal a recent Yukon Supreme Court decision on the human rights case against it.
“Although we still disagree with the original decision, the college has decided not to appeal this latest judgment,” said Yukon College president Karen Barnes.
“We maintain that the college always has the students’ best interests at heart and believe our instructors have acted with integrity and professionalism throughout.”
The original complaint was brought forward seven years ago by twin sisters Susan Malcolm and Sarah Baker.
The sisters, now 65, claimed to have been mistreated by two of their instructors while enrolled in the college’s community support worker program.
Malcolm and Baker were told they smelled bad. They were asked to photocopy their assignments because they smelled of cigarettes.
The instructors also told the twins they were too overweight for the work and too unintelligent to complete the course in the standard two years.
Both women had not received a lot of formal education because of childhood bouts with polio. However both had done high school upgrading and went on to run a number of successful businesses, most recently a restaurant in Dawson City.
Once at Yukon College they managed to make the dean’s list.
They’d hoped the support worker program would lead to work with people struggling with mental health issues.
But they were unable to complete their program after falling ill just a few days shy of completing their last practicum.
The instructors would not allow the women to make up the time later.
They also threatened to give them terrible references.
In May, a Yukon Human Rights board of adjudication ruled in Malcolm and Baker’s favour.
Malcolm and Baker were awarded $10,000 each, as well as court costs.
Not long after the decision was released, the sisters received an email from Yukon College offering to double their compensation if they didn’t talk to the media.
But then the college appealed the decision.
Last week, the Yukon Supreme Court ruled against the college’s appeal, upholding the original decision.
“It feels good. I hope it makes a big difference for other students,” said Baker.
“I hope they’re given instructions to train people better in human rights and just to make things better all around.”
But Baker doubts whether there will be any major changes as a result of the ruling.
“They’re more worried about their reputation than solving a problem,” she said. “And it’s a big problem.”
There were no instructions from the human rights adjudicator that called for changes with college protocol, said Barnes.
And because she still maintains the instructors did nothing wrong, there will be no disciplinary action.
The community support worker program was suspended four years ago because of lack of enrollment.
Both instructors involved in the complaint are still working at the college. They are now assigned to work with the Northern Institute of Social Justice.
Since the complaint, the college has done a complete revision of all its academic policies and regulations, said Barnes.
This provides clearer guidelines for college staff and should prevent similar disputes in the future, she said.
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