Falum Gibson Is A Student Facing Ableist Discrimination From One Of Ottawa’s Renowned Universities

Carleton University, in what world is evicting a vulnerable student in crisis okay? A student’s mental health does not make them undeserving of receiving an education. The right to an education free of discrimination is a protected human right backed by Canada’s Supreme Court.

 

 After being hospitalized for three weeks for mental health reasons in November of 2017, Falum Gibson received a notice that she was on academic probation and that she would need documentation from a psychiatrist before returning to class.

 

“Once documentation was received, I was allowed to return back to campus with very strict rules in place. Ultimately, I had to agree not to try and kill myself on campus. It was very clear that they were only concerned about liability, and not that a student was deeply struggling.”

 

After returning to Carleton she followed the safety plan provided for her. This included reaching out and asking for help should she feel her mental health starting to decline again. Recognizing the need for support and asking for help amid a personal crisis is difficult. One would expect to have their request be met with empathy and respect. Instead, on January 10th Falum was given two days to pack up her room on residence.

 

“I now am living in a hospital, and the reason I chose Carleton was for their impeccable wheelchair accessible facilities. I made so many friends, and met so many people, and now I do not even have a place to call home.

 Many students with disabilities choose to live at Carleton because this is the most accessible school for them during their studies. However, I am now learning that they are not so welcoming to students who have invisible disabilities. I had a 11.0 CGPA, and was receiving nineties in my courses. Now I am not even able to go to school because my living situation is up in the air.”

  An academically strong student with a physical disability battling a metal illness is now effectively homeless. Pursing a higher education is obviously something she valued, it shows in her grades. It’s quite clear that her place at Carleton University was something very positive. She’s intelligent, she followed the rules, and she asked for help. The last thing Falum needed was for something positive to be taken away when she was already struggling. Read her story and recommendations HERE.

In “Moore v British Columbia (Education)” Canada’s Supreme Court states that for potentially discriminatory conduct to be justified “it must be shown that alternative approaches were investigated” and that “an employer or service provider must show that it could not have done anything else reasonable or practical to avoid the negative impact on the individual.”

 I have an inkling that Carleton University had other reasonable or practical options other than eviction within 48 hours that could have greatly reduced the negative impact felt by Falum Gibson. Maybe like letting her stay on residence until other living arrangements can be made? Just a thought. Why would you create additional barriers for someone who is already at a disadvantage?

 “Discrimination and the exclusion of persons with disabilities in employment has long been recognized as some of the most prevalent human rights issues in Canada. But what makes an already bad situation worse is that for persons with disabilities the odds are often already against them because of the barriers they face in school.”

 

“Education is supposed to open doors for people, not shut them out,” says Chief Commissioner, Marie-Claude Landry. “How can we expect persons with disabilities to thrive and succeed in our workforce if we don’t first give them the quality of education they are entitled to?” 

(Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2017)

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