May 19, 1993 - Janice Berg

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Supreme Court of Canada says mentally challenged deserve same services. In 1979, Janice Berg was accepted into the master’s program in the School of Family and Nutritional Sciences at the University of British Columbia. Despite a history of controllable, recurrent depression, she studied hard enough to keep her grades above average. But one day in 1981, she wrote “I am dead” on a school’s washroom mirror, then attempted to jump through a plate-glass window when RCMP officers appeared in the hallway. Two years later, an instructor refused Berg a “rating sheet,” one of the criteria she needed to apply for a hospital internship. About the same time, Berg found herself refused a key to the school’s new facilities for after-hours work, without a doctor’s note. She complained to the B.C. Human Rights Council, which found the university liable for discrimination against Berg due to her mental disability. The B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal both overturned that decision. But on May 19, 1993, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Berg. The court said that denying Berg a “service customarily available to the public” amounted to discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Act. The court added that it did not want to unduly restrict what “public” meant under human rights protection. They said it was not the purpose of legislation to admit people into a program and then deny them access that makes their admission meaningful.

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