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Court rejects WRDSB attempt to dismiss defamation lawsuit

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A retired Waterloo Region District School Board teacher is claiming a “major victory” in her ongoing legal battle with the board.

The Ontario Court of Justice rejected the school board’s attempt to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against them and its former chair Scott Piatkowski.

Justice James Ramsay handed down the ruling on Nov. 23, saying the lawsuit launched by Carolyn Burjoski can proceed. He also ordered the school board to pay $30,000 of Burjoski's legal fees.

“Hello everyone. I’m thrilled to announce my first major victory in my legal battle with the Waterloo Region District School Board,” said Burjoski in video update posted online. “I am overjoyed to report the judge dismissed the board’s motion, allowing my defamation lawsuit to proceed.”

The case arises from a 2022 school board meeting where Burjoski questioned the decision to make books available in school libraries about transgender youth.

Piatkowski put an end to her presentation and removed her from the meeting. Burjoski retired shortly after, began an online fundraiser and launched her lawsuit.

Although this is a significant step, one Kitchener associate lawyer who is not connected to this case, said the outcome of the overall dispute isn’t set in stone.

“The plaintiff bringing the defamation action, she still very well may lose. She may not succeed. Justice Ramsay wasn’t ruling on that. But he did allow the proceeding to continue to trial,” said Matt Jantzi with Cohen Highley LLP.

CTV News reached out to Piatkowski and the school board about the latest development.

Current chair Joanne Weston responded saying: “The board is reviewing the decision of the Ontario Superior Court. As this matter remains before the courts, the board will not be commenting further.”

In his ruling, Justice Ramsay said, in part: “…the Human Rights Code does not prohibit public discussion of issues related to transgenderism or minors and transgenderism. It does not prohibit public discussion of anything.”

He goes on to say it is regrettable that as an arm of the government, the defendant tried to shut down debate.

As for what’s next, the controversial legal battle continues, but the white flag could be waived at a moment’s notice.

“Settlement can be alive in a dispute at any point, at any moment. And a lot of civil disputes do settle,” Jantzi explained.

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