SCC denies former Ottawa U prof’s judicial bias appeal

The Supreme Court of Canada today refused leave to appeal by former University of Ottawa physics professor Denis Rancourt who alleged judicial bias in a defamation suit between himself and Ottawa law professor Joanne St. Lewis.

St. Lewis sued Rancourt for defamation after he called her a “house negro” in a 2011 blog post that criticized St. Lewis’ findings about a report by the university’s Student Appeal Centre of the Student Federation regarding racism at the university.

University of Ottawa president Allan Rock had asked St. Lewis to evaluate the report. She found there was no systemic racism with the university’s procedures for academic fraud and concluded that the report’s findings were not factual.

During the court proceedings, university witnesses refused to answer certain questions or produce several documents. Rancourt challenged the refusals but the judge dismissed his motion.

Rancourt claimed the judge was biased because the university had a scholarship in honour of his late son and a boardroom named after him at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, which represented the University of Ottawa. However, a second judge rejected his request for an order to set aside the previous decision.

Rancourt then sought to appeal both decisions, which was dismissed with costs by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 4.

Last week, a lengthy arbitration hearing to decide whether the university had the right to fire Rancourt in 2009 ended. The university’s board of governors let the tenured professor with 23 years’ experience go for reason of “academic fraud.” Rancourt reportedly awarded A+ marks to every student in an advanced physics course.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the arbitrator’s ruling on the firing won’t be out for another few months.

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