In an important victory for freedom of speech and parental rights, Carolyn Burjoski has won the first stage of her legal battle!
PAFE would like to congratulate her on her much-deserved legal victory.
As PAFE reported in January 2022, Burjoski, then a teacher in the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB), was silenced several minutes into her presentation during a board meeting while she voiced concerns about inappropriate sexual content in her elementary school library.
Scott Piatkowski, Board Chair at the time, halted Burjoski’s presentation for what he alleged were comments that violated the “Ontario Human Rights Code” and ejected her from the meeting.
Burjoski was given a “stay-at-home order” and told not to communicate with colleagues or students.
WRDSB removed its recording of the meeting from the internet for alleged copyright infringement, although it was a regular, public session of elected officials.
Read PAFE’s earlier report here for more details of what happened at the meeting.
Piatkowski later said in media interviews that Burjoski’s comments were transphobic and “questioned the right to exist” of trans people.
Burjoski fought back. In May 2022, she filed a defamation, slander and libel lawsuit against the WRDSB and Piatkowski.
“I am concerned that school boards are abusing their power to silence and shame people who ask perfectly reasonable questions,” Burjoski said.
The board responded by trying to have the suit thrown out.
In a November 23rd ruling, Ontario Superior Court Justice James Ramsay dismissed the WRDSB’s attempt to have the suit thrown out and ordered the board to pay Burjoski $30,000 in costs. He said her claims have merit and should be allowed to proceed, and that the comments made against her were “defamatory.”
“They accused her of breaching the Human Rights Code, questioning the right of trans persons to exist and engaging in speech that included hate. She did not do any of those things,” the judge said in his ruling.
“The chairman of the board acted with malice or at least, with a reckless disregard for the truth. He had made an embarrassingly erroneous and arbitrary decision to silence a legitimate expression of opinion and he was widely criticized for it. It is not a stretch to infer that, realizing that, he tried to justify himself with the public by assassinating the plaintiff’s character.”
The judge further stated that human rights legislation “does not prohibit public discussion of anything,” and “what happened here should not happen in a democratic society.”
PAFE has been covering the story since it broke in early 2022, and mobilized people to contact the WRDSB and voice their support for Burjoski.
Burjoski, now retired, said of the ruling:
“It is a significant victory and vindication, not just for me, but for everyone who dares to voice their valid concerns publicly…I hope this decision sends a strong message to school boards that the weaponization of human rights codes against concerned citizens is an undemocratic abuse of the code.”
Burjoski’s legal victory shows that parents who want to present as delegates at school board meetings to voice their concerns can do so without the fear of being silenced and having something similar happen to them.
After this excellent start to her ongoing legal battle to hold the WRDSB accountable, Burjoski will now continue with her defamation suit. PAFE will keep you updated.