The University of British Columbia says that a man whose $30-million donation resulted in its law faculty being named after him should not be allowed to appeal a decision that dismisses his claim that all law degrees conferred by UBC should have his name on them.
In November, Peter Allard filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court asking that an arbitrator’s award dismissing his claims be overturned.
After Allard made his donation in 2014, the university renamed the law faculty in his name.
He claims in his petition that he only learned after the gift agreement had been signed that the university was not including mention of the Peter A. Allard School of Law on all law degrees.
Allard was surprised to find out that, while the university included the new faculty name on JD (juris doctor) degrees, it was not including the new name on graduate law degrees.
The matter went to arbitration and, in his ruling on the case, arbitrator Neil Wittman found that neither party had addressed the meaning of the words “degree certificates” that were included in the gift agreement.
Wittman, a former chief justice of the Court of Queens Bench of Alberta, concluded however that the proper interpretation of the words “degree certificate” meant those certificates or parchments granted upon the recommendation of the Peter A. Allard School of Law and not otherwise.
Noting that master of laws and PhD degrees are granted by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and not the Peter A. Allard School of Law, Wittman decided in favour of UBC and against Allard.
In the petition, Allard and the Allard Prize Foundation questioned whether Wittman had made several legal errors including by failing to interpret the reference to degree certificates in the context of the 2014 agreement as a whole.
They sought leave to appeal and to overturn the arbitrator’s ruling in favour of Allard and the foundation.
But in a response to the petition, the university says that the scope of appellate intervention in arbitration cases is narrow in order to advance efficiency and finality, the aims of arbitration.
It says that leave to appeal may only be granted for questions of law that are of sufficient importance and that the test for leave is not easily met.
The questions raised by the petitioners are questions of mixed fact and law, rather than questions of law, says UBC’s response. “Neither question gives rise to an arguable ground of appeal,” it says.
UBC says that as the arbitrator determined, the essence of the gift agreement was the renaming of the Faculty of Law.
“The arbitrator simply came to a different interpretation of [the gift agreement] than the one advanced by the petitioners. That does not make his decision unreasonable.”
There is no merit to the proposed appeal, UBC says.
“Accordingly, leave to appeal should be denied, with costs.”