A court has ruled that Laurentian University must hand over documents as ordered by a rare speaker’s warrant that was unanimously approved by the Ontario Legislature after the Sudbury school refused to provide them to the province’s auditor general.
However, Ontario Superior Court Justice Geoffrey Morawetz did grant the financially troubled school’s request for a stay on disclosure of confidential mediation and court-sealed documents related to its creditor protection process, which is currently under way in the courts, saying that could be “problematic ”As the school restructures.
The Laurentian University Faculty Association said it “welcomes the dismissal of Laurentian University’s motion to stay the speaker’s warrant, but is disappointed about the exceptions” granted.
“We believe that it is in the public interest and indeed of the entire Laurentian community that Laurentian University be transparent and accountable,” said association president Fabrice Colin.
Government House Leader Paul Calandra said in a statement to the Star that the government is “pleased that the court has recognized the ability of the democratically elected legislative assembly to obtain the documents it requires to do its work on behalf of the people of Ontario.”
However, Calandra added, “we remain committed to continuing to defend the supremacy of parliament. We continue to review the decision. ”
New Democrat MPP Jamie West (Sudbury) called the decision “disappointing,” given the creditor protection process is now almost a year old and Laurentian “is still fighting the public’s right to know how we got here. The people of Sudbury are frustrated and disappointed and they are starting to get angry. ”
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said Thursday her office has received the decision, but needs time to assess it.
In the decision issued Wednesday evening, Morawetz said “I agree with the speaker that parliamentary privilege extends to compelling production of information and documents that are subject to a class privilege from a non-governmental entity.”
Morawetz said a hearing could be held in February or March and “there will only be a relatively short delay in enforcement of the speaker’s warrant pending determination of the scope of the privilege.”
In December, MPPs voted in favor of ordering Laurentian to turn over financial information, emails and other documents by Feb. 1 using a speaker’s warrant, at the request of the public accounts committeewhich had directed Lysyk to conduct an audit.
Laurentian is the first public post-secondary institution in the country to file for creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. It had argued that some of the materials were privileged.
But Lysyk said her office “routinely” receives such information and that confidentiality is maintained.
Laurentian filed for creditor protection last February, a process typically used by struggling companies, reporting a debt of $ 321 million.
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