Human language

Human rights hearing continues for parents of deaf child

Kim and her husband Todd Churchill, parents of Carter Churchill, testified Monday at a human rights hearing in St. John’s.

They claim the East School District discriminated against them by not providing an adequate education for their deaf son, Carter.

His mother repeatedly broke down talking about her son and his isolation due to difficulties with his first language, ASL, or American Sign Language.

The family’s lawyer, Kyle Rees, says the blame and responsibility lies with the English school district, not the parents.

Todd and Kim Churchill, and their lawyer Kyle Rees.

He says they need a ruling that exposes the unfavorable and discriminatory programming the boy endured for several years “in the name of so-called inclusion”. This will prevent others from relying on their parents to devote financial and emotional resources to such cases in order to obtain an equitable education for their child.

It is no secret that the Anglophone school district of Newfoundland and Labrador denies the allegations of discrimination.

In his opening remarks, attorney Steve Penney said the lineup doesn’t have to be perfect. He says the council does not accept that the boy was denied meaningful access to education, noting that while the supports may not have been perfect, reasonableness, not perfection, is Standard.

The hearing, which is scheduled to last nine days, continues this morning at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s. It is open to the public and is broadcast live.

(Carey Majid via NL Human Rights Commission)

Meanwhile, the head of the Human Rights Commission says the current hearing process is less than ideal, but that’s all they have.

Carey Majid spoke before the start of the Carter Churchill case yesterday, acknowledging widespread public interest in the case.

She said the outcome will be important because it could help define what it means to have inclusive and meaningful access to education in the province.

But Majid says there has to be a better way to do this. She says it’s clear to her that human rights hearings aren’t always the best way to resolve these disputes, especially when it comes to education, but notes that this is what exists. Majid wonders if results would be better with a more holistic, relationship-based, or restorative way of resolving conflict.