Morissette, Gagné, Lavallée
Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court dismissing an application for judicial review. Allowed.
The appellants appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court dismissing their application for judicial review to quash resolutions adopted by the respondent, the Central Quebec School Board. These resolutions concern contracts for student transportation entered into with the other respondent, the Société de transport du Saguenay (STS). The appellants maintain that the trial judge erred in his assessment of the reasonable time period for serving the application for judicial review and in his interpretation of the applicable legislative and regulatory provisions. Basically, they argue that the public transit authorities cannot exclusively transport students for the start and end of classes and that s. 13 of the Regulation respecting student transportation (CQLR, c. I-13.3, r. 12) concerns only transportation integrated into the regular service offered by these authorities.
With regard to the time period, the judge erred by relying mainly on the fact that this period was not suspended, regardless of the relevant factors, and by considering the 30-day time period to be a deadline or a prescription period. The subject-matter should be considered, as it is indisputably of public interest, as should the appellants’ promptness in denouncing the illegality of the first resolution, and the absence of prejudice to the respondents. In these circumstances, the delay of just over 120 days is not unreasonable.
Although the judge analyzed the provisions set out in the Education Act (CQLR, c. I-13.3) and in the Act respecting public transit authorities (CQLR, c. S-30.01), he did not pay sufficient attention to the structure of the rules that frame the organization of school transportation or to the legislative history. The priority set out under s. 13 of the Regulation respecting student transportation concerns the integration of students into the regular public transit service, not the exclusive transportation of students. Section 13 addresses the possibility of offering public transit authorities “the possibility of providing the transportation service required for the students residing in the area of jurisdiction of that public transit authority”. This wording implies that it is a question of integrating students into the public transit service rather than giving public transit authorities priority to carry out the exclusive transportation of students, in parallel with their regular service. This interpretation is the most compatible with the analysis of the wording of s. 13, its overall context, the legislative history, and the structure of the rules that frame the organization of school transportation. It is understandable that the school board whose territory coincides with that of a public transit authority be compelled, before negotiations by agreement or with public tenders, to offer the authority the possibility of integrating its clientele into its regular public transit service. The school board in question therefore had to first offer the STS the possibility of integrating the students living on its territory into its regular public transit service, but it could not negotiate with it contracts concerning the exclusive transportation of students as if it was a transporter to which it was contractually bound the previous school year.
Legislation interpreted: s. 13 of the Regulation respecting student transportation
Text of the decision: Http://citoyens.soquij.qc.ca