Why We’re Suing York University for $20 Million

Three months ago, my firm filed a Statement of Claim against York University with the allegation and contention that York University has consistently failed to prioritize the safety of its students.  Eight students strategized with our team on how to deal with these issues going forward.  The Statement of Claim alleges that York University failed in its duty to protect students on campus. These allegations have yet to be proven in Court.

We do know that between the years of 2000 to 2009, York University had 66 reported sexual assaults, which is a more poignant figure when you take into account that statistically up to 90% of cases can go unreported. The pattern seemed to continue past 2009. According to York University statistics cited in The Toronto Sun, there were six sexual assaults (including the murder of Qian Liu), three sexual harassment charges and two other sexual offences in 2011 alone.

York University spokesperson, Joanne Rider explained that York augments Security with Toronto Police Services when required. In contrast, the University of Toronto implements a dedicated police force of special constables.  Our clients are hoping that through this suit York will institute these types of changes on their campus as we near the first week of classes.

Since the inception of this lawsuit, our team has been contacted by a number of students currently enrolled in York to share their support for change. Online petitions dating back as early as 2012 ask for increased safety measures and have garnered close to 4000 signatures to date (https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/york-university-york-university-needs-on-campus-police-officers) (https://www.causes.com/campaigns/42441-demand-that-york-university-officials-take-action-to-reduce-crime-on-campus/updates).

Measures previously mentioned by these individuals include swipe card access and metal detectors on campus after a multitude of assaults and robberies took place. We are alleging York was aware of these sorts of issues and failed to enact necessary changes on campus. This is why these types of suits are important. Proactive changes can deter crime and help to instill trust and security among students including young women walking home or to their car from evening classes. This also extends to the current and future faculty with which the number is around 50,000 people.

Lawsuits against educational institutions alleging a failure in the level of safety for students is not uncommon with varying degrees of success.  We have seen it more with our friends to the south.  Columbine would be a recent example.  The families of the victims sued the family of the criminals and the school board among other defendants. The case eventually settled out of court.

In Kentucky three families sued the parents of the shooter and school officials for failing to protect them from the violent shooter.  The claim was for $120 million. In another shooting in Mississippi the parents of six students sued the school saying they ought to have taken reasonable steps to prevent the shooting.

In all these cases it was not about the money. I know people try and make it seem like it is all based on greed, it is not.  Besides the untimely loss of a loved one, the families are victims, and suffer financial loss.  Psychologists and on-going physiotherapy is not covered under our OHIP system.   Yes, they are suing also for the pain and suffering they endured but those damages are capped.  I can tell you the major impetus for this lawsuit for my clients are that there is change. They are hoping that if negligence is proven preventative measures are taken to prevent any future crime albeit it at York University or any other institution across Canada.


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