Did a 17-year-old student who filmed a teacher from her school on a bar dance floor last month commit a crime of “lèse-majesté”? Did the Montreal private school that expelled her after the video went viral release the “heavy cavalry”? The parents of this teenager are claiming $215,000 from Collège Notre-Dame.
An “excess of jurisdiction”, a “flagrant injustice” imbued with “partiality, arbitrary, abusive and bad faith”: the prosecution does not mince its words with regard to the decision of the Collège Notre-Dame to expel a student from Secondary 5.
The story begins last February, in a bar located on Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Montreal.
It is, we read in the lawsuit, a “nightclub frequented by several minors, since its doormen do not systematically require identification from their customers, particularly when it comes to young girls. well-dressed following the fashion and dress trends”.
During the evening, the teenager recognizes a teacher from her college who is dancing.
“She finds it funny to meet a College teacher in a nightclub” and, while “under the influence of alcohol”, undertakes to film him for a few seconds.
The video footage only “shows the teacher participating in a public activity, in this case dancing”, “in a public place, in this case the dance floor of a nightclub”.
The man “appears in the middle of a crowd of individuals who are also dancing […] and there does not appear or perform any gesture that is inappropriate or of a sexual connotation,” reads the lawsuit.
The student sends the video to friends via the private message of the Instagram application, “unknown that some of the nine friends who received it would spread it widely and post it on social media, and even less that said video would go viral among College students.
Things pick up a few days later. The student is met by the management, his phone is confiscated. She is “detained against her will, for several hours, and subjected to inquisitorial questioning, without any justification”, according to the lawsuit.
Less than a week after the evening at the bar, her parents are summoned to the college where they are told that their daughter is being expelled for what the College considers a major violation of the institution’s Code of Conduct and a contravention of the school’s contract. conditional admission to which the student had subscribed in June 2022, following other breaches of the Code of Life.
The parents then tried to enroll their daughter in two private establishments in Montreal and in a public school in Outremont, which refused her for lack of space.
She is therefore “at risk” of “having to complete her high school education ‘publicly’ and having her efforts of the past four years wiped out,” reads the lawsuit, which also alleges that the quality of education at her high school in district “is in no way comparable to that of the College”.
They also asked the Court to suspend the deportation of their daughter. However, since the filing of the lawsuit, Notre-Dame College has agreed to reinstate its student.
“We settled the aspect of the injunction out of court [Sunday]. The child has been reinstated and has been following his lessons since Monday, without any admission, with respect to contesting the merits, “explained the parents’ lawyer, Me Daniel Pellerin, to La Presse.
Despite this agreement, the Court will still have to decide the merits of the dispute and the question of the damages claimed.
Notre-Dame College did not want to comment on the case because it is a minor student.
Professor at the Public Law Research Center at the University of Montreal, Pierre Trudel read the lawsuit at the request of La Presse.
Mr. Trudel observes that the connection in this case is “a bit tenuous”.
The prosecution alleges that the student’s dismissal is “out of all proportion to the alleged facts”. Professor Pierre Trudel also believes that the “penalty is particularly disproportionate and severe”.
” I am at university. Usually it takes more than that to deserve such a severe punishment,” Mr. Trudel said.
And basically, did the teenager have the right to film a man dancing in the middle of the night?
The professor refers to the famous Duclos case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“In 1998, the Court did say that you cannot publish a person’s image without their consent, unless there is a public interest reason for doing so,” he explains. But there are nuances: there are several “degrees of public interest”, says the professor, and the person must also be “clearly recognizable”.
Making a video “of a crowd of people on a dance floor, without targeting an individual, it’s allowed, it’s not something illegal”, continues Mr. Trudel, who does not has not seen the video in question.
As social media increasingly becomes the extension of schools, this is an “interesting case,” concludes the law professor.