Laurentian University says it will “comply with all of its legal obligations” following a court decision on the Speaker’s warrant released last week.
The university declared insolvency and filed for creditor protection and court-supervised restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) nearly one year ago, on Feb. 1, 2021.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz, the judge that has heard most matters related to LU’s insolvency over the past year, released his decision Jan. 26 regarding Laurentian’s request for a stay of a Speaker’s warrant issued by the Ontario legislature last month.
The Speaker’s warrant compels Laurentian to produce a long list of documents, including privileged documents, by Feb. 1.
Morawetz denied Laurentian’s full request for the stay, but did grant a limited stay related to certain documents related to LU’s insolvency restructuring that are covered by court orders.
This limited stay “is in effect pending a determination of whether the issuance of the Speaker’s Warrants” as related to certain documents covered by court orders “falls within the scope and extent of the Legislative Assembly’s parliamentary privilege,” said Morawetz’s decision.
Laurentian released a written statement Jan. 28 regarding the court decision related to the Speaker’s warrant.
"Laurentian University appreciates the clarity provided by the court’s decision on the preliminary issue of the stay of the Speaker’s Warrants,” said the statement.
“The matters for which the stay was granted will be heard by the court on a date to be scheduled.
“With respect to those portions for which the stay does not apply, as Laurentian University has previously confirmed, it accepts the Court’s guidance and will comply with all of its legal obligations, subject to any further direction of the Court.”
The statement said Laurentian will “continue to co-operate with the Standing Committee’s request” (referring to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the Ontario legislature committee that has requested the documents of LU).
“Laurentian University is on a difficult and necessary journey of transformational change,” the written statement from LU goes on to say.
“As we continue the hard work of restructuring, we are working through a complex process involving many stakeholders with the assistance of a court-appointed Monitor and under the direct supervision of the court.
“Especially in light of the province’s support, we remain confident that Laurentian will emerge as a fully restructured, financially viable, and renewed Laurentian University for the long-term."
Paul Calandra, government house leader for the Ontario PCs, has also released a written statement on the matter.
“We are 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,” Calandra said.
“We remain committed to continuing to defend the supremacy of Parliament. We continue to review the decision.”
The Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) said in a press release it welcomes the dismissal of Laurentian University's motion to stay the Speaker’s Warrant.
However, the union said it is disappointed about the exceptions currently granted to Laurentian regarding the mediation documents sealed under a court order.
“We believe that it is in the public interest and indeed of the entire Laurentian community that Laurentian University be transparent and accountable,” said Fabrice Colin, president of LUFA, in a press release.
“We urge the administration to stop fighting against transparency.”
LUFA said it has repeatedly advised the administration that it has no objections to providing the documents related to the administration’s dealings with LUFA.
A full disclosure is required — not only to bring closure for the community — but also to ensure that errors that were made are not repeated in the future, either at Laurentian or in another post-secondary institution, said the press release.
After Laurentian University filed for court protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act last February, over 100 faculty positions were lost, many staff positions were eliminated, and 69 programs were closed.
“There is no doubt that the secretive and non-consultative approach of the university administration led to this outcome,” said Colin, in the press release.
"While we respect the ruling, we sincerely doubt that keeping these documents secret would result in more harm to Laurentian University, considering the actual irreparable harm that was already caused by those who are fighting against the release of these documents.”