UPDATE: Jasmin Simpson Challenges Discriminatory Student Loans Programs for Students with Disabilities

  • January 15, 2020
  • Laura Lepine
  • Comments Off on UPDATE: Jasmin Simpson Challenges Discriminatory Student Loans Programs for Students with Disabilities

From January 14-16, 2020, Jasmin Simpson will finally get her day in court.

Jasmin, who is blind, Deaf, and has lupus, has been waiting for this for nearly two decades. She graduated from Gallaudet University with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Social Work in 2008. Jasmin took 60% longer to complete her degrees than her peers without disabilities. She also accrued 60% more debt.

This is because student loan debt is capped by year, not by program or by degree. As a result, students who take longer to graduate because of their disabilities (because of the need to take a preparatory course, the decision to enroll in programs specifically designed for students with disabilities, the need to withdraw due to illness or disability, the need to take a reduced course load, or other disability-related reasons) can graduate with twice as much – or even more – debt relative to non-disabled students.

As a result, Jasmin is challenging the federal and Ontario governments’ student loan programs – the Canada Student Loan Program and Ontario Student Assistance Plan respectively – under section 15(1) of the Charter, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. The Charter is being used to challenge the application of the cap, rather than a program cap to students with disabilities who take longer because of their disability.

The federal government tried to settle the case by making two irrelevant changes to its program and offered to cancel 100% of Jasmin’s debt (not just the extra 60%). She refused, because the changes didn’t redress the discrimination she experienced and because she believes other students with disabilities should not accumulate discriminatory debt like she did.

You can read Jasmin’s written submissions here (link). Canada and Ontario’s responses can be found here (link) and here (link). Jasmin’s written reply to the governments’ arguments can be found here (link).

This case is similar to the “1 person, 1 fare” decision of the Canadian Transportation Agency, which held that persons with disabilities who require more than 1 seat on an aircraft due to their disability should only be required to pay 1 fare. You can read the decision of the Canadian Transportation Agency here (link). The Supreme Court of Canada upheld this decision by refusing leave to appeal.

Jasmin’s case will be heard in courtroom 9-1 at the Superior Court of Justice, located at 330 University Avenue, Toronto, from January 14-16, 2020. The hearing will commence at 10:00am. We kindly ask that any spectators arrive prior to the commencement of the hearing. Two sign language interpreters will be present to interpret the proceedings.

On January 14, 2020, the CTV published an article about Jasmin Simpson and her case before the Superior Court. You can read this article here (link).

This post was originally published on December 9, 2019. Since then, this post has been updated on December 20, 2019 to include Jasmin Simpson’s reply submissions, and again on January 10, 2020 to update the information regarding the location of the hearing. This post was again updated on January 14, 2020 to include a link to the CTV article and update the information regarding the location of the hearing. 

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