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Press Release - OSS prepares to challenge Ontario Government over school air quality


Nonprofit prepares to legally challenge Ontario Government re. school air quality

June 7, 2023

TORONTO, CANADA — On National Clean Air Day, Ontario School Safety (OSS) announces the retaining of R. Douglas Elliott of Cambridge LLP, to consider their legal options for ensuring the Provincial Government improves indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools and on buses.

No more patching broken bones with band-aids. OSS is asking the provincial government to provide adequate funding to fully address air quality in schools and on school buses in a measurable, enforceable way that follows updated ASHRAE and OSPE guidelines

Multiple attempts to discuss this issue directly with the Ontario government have failed, leaving OSS no choice but to explore legal options. 

“Children deserve better. When it comes to children, we as adults must help protect them because they are less able to protect themselves. The safety of children is one of the oldest and most fundamental obligations of the Crown. Ontario is ultimately legally responsible for the safety of children in our schools,” says Doug Elliott, legal counsel for OSS. “ If the Ford Government continues to stick their head in the sand, we will be advising Ontario School Safety about their legal options to make sure our kids are as safe as possible in September. Our kids deserve to breathe the safest possible air.”

“The provincial government isn’t testing or reporting on the effect our taxpayer dollars are having on air quality, so we have no assurances that our kids, bus drivers, and education workers are breathing clean air”, said Dr. Heather Hanwell, a Board Director at OSS.

“Respiratory illness in students and school staff is not only a health concern, it also causes academic disruption and destabilizes the lives and finances of Ontario families,” says Kate Laing, Chair of the Board and concerned parent of two. “This government invested over $1B to update the ventilation in Queen’s Park, almost twice as much as the investment made in all of our schools province-wide. Why would they do that if they didn’t think it was important?”

Ontario School Safety is a grassroots, non-profit group of volunteers, composed of parents, healthcare workers, scientists, education workers, public health workers and community advocates, all of whom are committed to making schools as safe as they can be from the negative effects of poor indoor air quality, including absences due to airborne illnesses (like COVID-19, influenza A, and RSV), impaired academic performance, and suffering due to seasonal allergies and asthma. 

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  • The 100,000 HEPA units and $1.4B in funding over the course of the pandemic falls woefully short of the $16.8B needed to address the infrastructure backlog in our publicly funded education system. 

  • The government failed to measure how effective their investments to improve indoor air quality were in doing the job. 

  • Mr. Elliott won the largest Canadian class action trial judgment valued at $50 million in an action brought by a group of gay and lesbian Canadians seeking CPP survivor’s pensions against the federal government in Hislop v. Canada. 

  • Mr. Elliott played a key role in the national hepatitis C team that secured a $1.5 billion settlement from the federal and provincial governments in Parsons v. Canada, one of the largest settlements in Canadian class action history. 

  • OSS is seeking to connect with families who believe that their experiences of inequity and hardship due to the failure of the Ontario government to adequately address IAQ in Ontario’s schools might be relevant to the legal challenge. 

  • The GoFundMe campaign to cover all legal and administrative fees that will arise as the case moves forward is well under way, and the OSS open letter to the government has been endorsed by 184 organizations and experts when it comes to ventilation, epidemiology, public health, and more.

  • OSS is joined by a variety of extraordinary legal minds who are donating their expertise to further bolster their case. OSS welcomes the addition of new members who would like to donate their time and energy to the cause — especially those with legal, public health, political, or fundraising experience. 


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