Media Release

For Immediate Release
12 January 2007


Montreal – The Canadian Council for Refugees welcomes the recent ruling of the Ontario Superior Court finding that the Ontario College of Teachers unfairly discriminated against a refugee.

“This ruling deserves to be carefully reviewed by governments and professional bodies across Canada,” said Elizabeth McWeeny, CCR President. “Refugees are often unable to obtain documents from their home country because of the persecution they fled.  The legitimate goal of evaluating foreign credentials needs to be achieved in a flexible way that takes into account the fact that some refugees who have the required qualifications will not be able to provide full documentary evidence.”

The Court overturned a decision by the College refusing the application of a teacher who was unable to provide original documents from Iran.  The teacher, Fatima Siadat, fled Iran as a refugee after she suffered persecution because of her comments in favour of free speech.  Given this persecution, she cannot obtain an original of her educational qualifications from Iran.  The College refused to design alternative means for her to satisfy them as to her qualifications.   The Court found that their refusal violated the Ontario Human Rights Code.  The Court also highlighted the College’s obligations under the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher Education (Lisbon Convention), which calls for procedures sensitive to the realities of refugees.

“Fatima has waited a long time for this decision and I’m hoping we can now, at last, work with the College to design a fair way of assessing her qualifications.  This is all Fatima has ever asked for,” said Chantal Tie, one of the lawyers representing Ms Siadat.

While some professional associations have adopted measures to accommodate exceptional circumstances, such as those faced by refugees, many such bodies across Canada continue to apply rigid requirements which discriminate against refugees, as in this case.

The decision is Fatima Siadat v. Ontario College of Teachers, 10 January 2007, file 561-04.

Colleen French, CCR Communications Coordinator, (514) 277-7223 (ext. 1)
Jean Lash, South Ottawa Community Legal Services, (613) 733-0140