Reopening of Postsecondary Education in Ontario
Date: June 15, 2020
In a series of announcements and regulatory changes from last week, the Ontario government provided guidance on the reopening of postsecondary education in the province. The developments reviewed in this FTR Now apply to universities, colleges of applied arts and technology, private career colleges and other postsecondary institutions (collectively, “Postsecondary Institutions”).
On June 10, 2020, the government issued a News Release entitled “Ontario Unveils a Plan to Reopen Postsecondary Education.” At the same time, the government released a Backgrounder document with further details entitled “A Path Forward for Advanced Education, Research and Science in Ontario.”
Under the plan, which has been developed in consultation with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and the postsecondary sector, there will be limited in-person training and education permitted beginning July 2, 2020. This initial phase will cover students who require in-person education or training to complete their graduation requirements, and will focus on “essential, frontline, and high labour market demand areas.”
The government has stated that it will soon be issuing a framework to guide Postsecondary Institutions in the development of any reopening plans, and that each individual institution will need to establish their own plan in accordance with any applicable public health advice and ministry guidance.
On June 11, 2020, the government issued new orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), subsequently filed as regulations under the EMCPA, one effect of which will be to facilitate the reopening of Postsecondary Institutions.
For the purposes of the general reopening of Ontario, the EMCPA regulations now divide the province on a geographic basis to reflect the different progress of COVID-19 in different regions:
- Areas where COVID-19 remains more active are still in Stage 1 of the reopening plan, and a modified version of the original order closing non-essential businesses remains in effect – O. Reg. 82/20, now called “Stage 1 Closures.”
- Areas where COVID-19 is less active have now moved to Stage 2 of the reopening plan, and are now subject to a new regulation – O. Reg. 263/20, “Stage 2 Closures.”
Postsecondary Institutions that are situated within the geographic scope of the following health units remain in Stage 1, and under the modified O. Reg. 82/20:
- Peel Region
- City of Toronto
- Windsor-Essex County
- City of Hamilton*
- Durham Region*
- Halton Region*
- York Region*
- Niagara Region*
*See Addendum, below, for an update on all health units marked with an “*”.
Subject to the Addendum, below, all other regions in Ontario are now in Stage 2 of the reopening plan and subject to O. Reg. 263/20.
For Postsecondary Institutions in all parts of the province, both regulations permit them to generally reopen, subject to certain key limitations applicable to all:
- In-person teaching and instruction cannot commence before July 2, 2020, and will then be permitted only for students who “would be eligible to graduate if they complete components of their program that can only be delivered through the in-person teaching or instruction.”
- There must be compliance with the obligations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
- There must be compliance with the advice, recommendations and guidance of public health officials, including in relation to physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.
Each regulation also contains a range of other restrictions and limitations that may apply to parts of the operations of Postsecondary Institutions and may limit or prevent their reopening. These additional restrictions and limitations will also need to be taken into account in developing any reopening plans. It is important to emphasize that, in this respect, the two regulations are not identical, and each Postsecondary Institution should carefully review the regulation that now applies to its operations.
Just before publication of this FTR Now, the government announced an expansion of the areas of the province that can move to Stage 2 reopening. Effective June 19, 2020, the following health units will be in Stage 2, and presumably subject to O. Reg. 263/20: City of Hamilton, Durham Region, Haldimand-Norfolk, Halton Region, Lambton, Niagara Region and York Region. Therefore, Postsecondary Institutions in this part of the Province should consult O. Reg. 263/20 as you plan your reopening.
Postsecondary Institutions in the health units of the City of Toronto, Peel Region and Windsor-Essex County will remain in Stage 1 and subject to O. Reg. 82/20 until further notice from the government.
As illustrated by the changes discussed in the Addendum, the reopening of Ontario remains in a very fluid state. We will continue to monitor developments in this area, including the release of the government’s reopening framework, and will provide updates as more information becomes available.
The article in this client update provides general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This publication is copyrighted by Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP and may not be photocopied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. ©