Province spends almost $6,000 in legal costs in fight over driver's licence

Ryan Ross
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P.E.I. Supreme Court. FILE PHOTO

Deborah Kelly Hawkes wanted social assistance to pay for it, but was declined at numerous levels of hearings

A fight over a $50 driver's licence has cost the provincial government almost $6,000 in legal costs for a case that dragged out almost 10 years.

On March 27, P.E.I. Supreme Court Justice Ben Taylor issued a decision after Deborah Kelly Hawkes asked for a judicial review of a P.E.I. Human Rights Commission ruling on her attempts to get social assistance to pay for her driver¹s licence.

Taylor dismissed her application.

A spokeswoman for the Finance Department said the province paid $5,973.68 in legal fees and disbursements related to the judicia review of Hawkes¹s human right complaint.

The applications for a judicial review named P.E.I.¹s attorney general,

the government of P.E.I., the minister of community services, seniors and labour, and the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission as respondents.

In 2003, Hawkes made a request through her financial assistance worker to get $50 to pay for the renewal of her driver's licence, which was denied.

She eventually filed a complaint with the human rights commission saying it was discrimination, but that complaint was dismissed.

A hearing was scheduled for Oct. 1, 2013 for the judicial review, but when it started Hawkes said she wouldn't get fair treatment or a fair hearing from Taylor.

She packed up her things, left the courthouse and the hearing proceeded without her.

Hawkes is no stranger to the courts and in August, 2013 Taylor declared her a  vexatious litigant, which restricts her ability to start any further legal proceedings.

Her judicial review pre-dated the vexatious litigant decision.

Taylor's recent decision on the judicial review application said at some point someone at social services did give Hawkes an envelope containing $50 "perhaps in the hope she would leave."

After saying she couldn't afford it, Hawkes paid for the licence and sought repayment from social services, Taylor wrote in his decision.

Taylor said that based on the materials he was dealing with, there was no indication Hawkes even had an arguable basis for her claim and it's clear that under the Social Assistance Act the government won't pay for a driver's licence.

He also wrote that the human rights commission has no right to increase the amount social services will pay through social assistance.

When Taylor declared Hawkes a vexatious litigant he ordered her to pay $5,000 to the provincial government in costs.

He declined to order any further costs as a result of this judicial review application.

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

Organizations: P.E.I. Human Rights Commission, Finance Department, Taylor's

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Recent comments

  • Deborah J. Kelly Hawkes
    April 15, 2014 - 14:07

    C'mon, really, those are the comments you wish to show the world? Please, feel free anytime to come up to me and apologize for what you have said and ask me what can you do to help. Yes, the gov't is now sourcing out my court cases, so that it can be stated in the paper how much it costs. This is what I wanted, as obviously if I had to hire a lawyer for a judicial review of a government employee decision, it would cost me $6,000. If an individual has no income for the renewal of their driver's licence so that they can continue to work, they have no income to hire a lawyer, thus NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE. Access to Justice is a key ingredient for a democracy, without it there is no democracy. Remember power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I am educated, thank you very much. I am a counsellor/guide for incest and rape and childhood sexual trauma. I also volunteered at the PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre, from 1984 to 1995. I was the education chair, did public speaking, etc. I know as well as the gov't the stats on sexual trauma experienced on PEI. From 1983 to 1987, I was a provincial employee, at the end, acting manager at a Group Home for Adolescents. When I wanted to help these children, who needed counselling, I was told no. In 1995, I started group and individual counselling/guiding for incest and other sexual trauma, but when my clients were mostly low income and I charged what they were making per hour, the gov't refused to help me. I am well aware of why someone would rather my clients have no counsellor to talk to. Judge Taylor certainly gives off the same energy as men that I know who have raped women. So is what the negative comments are saying is that it is better to give me $300.00 per month to keep doing what I was doing, counselling/guiding, even though I was eligible to receive $750.00. Instead of giving me $50.00 in March of 2004, after I had been driving since November of 2003, with an expired licence, so that I could accept employment at $7.00 per hour (this included the vacation pay). I could no longer live on $300.00 per month, so I wanted to see how an adult would fair on that wage with rent to pay, heat, electricity, food, clothing and have a vehicle for transportation. Of course, no adult can do that, plus the work was a waste of money, as the gov't subsidized my wage 80% for six months, so I had enough hours to receive EI, and I believe, all the work I did during that six months was never used. I am concerned about the negativity in this matter, as it is a sign of trauma, and if you are an adult, I have concerns for your mate or any children that you might have, so I now have a moral obligation to make sure that everyone in your life is OK. Though, I am assuming that you have just been bought and paid for by the government, since it took so long for the decision. I am assuming, it took awhile to find people to make negative comments on this one in particular. To show that they are classists, which is kin to being a racist or being homophobic. Remember I could have borrowed $50 from a number of people to renew my driver's licence, however, the problem was to be able to pay them back. I was already in debt over $18,000 and borrowed from family and friends and was given income from supporters, since I was helping low income earners to heal from sexual trauma. I respect so much those individuals who trusted enough to do the work necessary for a happy life. It is the least that I could do for them, since no one else was doing anything. For the most part it is women and children who are receiving financial assistance. Taking a woman's licence away, by making it impossible to renew their driver's licence is appalling and I will ensure it stops, however, I will need some help. Are you with me?

  • John W.A.Curtis
    April 07, 2014 - 09:06

    Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice MacLaughlin was critical of lawyers dragging out cases for years wasting court time. Summerside dragged out the Griffin Lawsuit some of those lawyers representing The City should have been denied the right to practice law.

  • Steven
    April 06, 2014 - 22:22

    If only she put this much effort into finding work or bettering her education so she would have the $50. Hahaha only in PEI

  • Justin
    April 06, 2014 - 20:56

    In my opinion, $6000 is a bargain to send a clear message on the issue. As some have already accurately pointed out, winning this case shuts the door on further requests of a similar nature. People shouldn't get hung up on the fact that all she wanted was $50 because let's be honest here, she would take and take and take until they stopped giving. She has shown a clear willingness to try and manipulate the system and greatly lacks maturity judging by her behavior in the courtroom. I'm sure most judges would be quite hesitant to label someone a vexatious litigant, but I think the judge got it right this time.

  • Dundas Sue
    April 06, 2014 - 19:39

    I am going out on a limb here to say that in some circumstances a driving licence is essential. maybe she needs a govt id. maybe she needs to help with child transportation or drive an ageing parent - but at less than $5 a month it should be doable even on SA, the registration and insurance for her own car is another thing.

  • sammy
    April 06, 2014 - 18:25

    The Provincial Government has how many lawyers on staff?? I lost track there are so many... So why did it cost the government $6000 in legal fees. Surly they didn't give this to an outside firm to pursue....

  • Alan
    April 06, 2014 - 16:31

    Taylor made the proper ruling. My only thought is how could he still be making the ruling after saying she was filing lawsuits for the fun of it. Another judge hearing the case would certainly reinforced Judge Taylor's original ruling.

  • Just Sayin
    April 06, 2014 - 14:37

    Sounds like some of the Senators

  • Observer
    April 06, 2014 - 13:41

    Driving is not an automatic right, nor is it essential to living. To Becca: I think it was appropriate to fight this claim in court: the $6000.00 spent now may save considerably more down the line if hundreds of people demand that they be given the same "right" to a driver's license. And her ability to sue further has been restricted - for the simple reason that she abused that privilege too. But I have to wonder: if she is living on social assistance, how did she expect to pay for gas, maintenance and insurance? Or would that be the next demand? This woman needs a new hobby. And a real job...

  • Observer
    April 06, 2014 - 13:21

    I wonder if she ever paid the $1500.00 she was ordered to pay back in 2007 for wasting the court's time. And how did she make out as a candidate in the last election? Just wondering', eh?

  • John
    April 06, 2014 - 13:01

    Had this lady put the same efforts into finding work as she has into fighting this and other decisions she and society would be much better off. Kudos to the government for not being bullied.

  • Islander Guy
    April 06, 2014 - 12:06

    A driver's permit is a privilege, not a right. This is not something that should be covered by social assistance. Good on Justice Taylor on saying NO!

  • Islander Guy
    April 06, 2014 - 12:06

    A driver's permit is a privilege, not a right. This is not something that should be covered by social assistance. Good on Justice Taylor on saying NO!

  • Becca the taxpayer
    April 06, 2014 - 11:38

    Awesome. Another waste of our tax dollars for a welfare recipient. Good going govt. That $6000 prob came from the cuts to my pension that the govt is taking. Keep up the great work!!!!

    • huh
      April 07, 2014 - 09:30

      "good going government"?? What exactly would you have had them do? Hawkes takes the blame on this.

  • Serious Reader
    April 06, 2014 - 10:58

    Yeah, Now there's a good example of "money management". What that $6000. would have done to help someone who really needed help. So sad - wasted money - nothing proven.....Just another "comic strip" about our system.

    • Brenda
      April 06, 2014 - 11:38

      If she had won other people on social services would have requested that their licence renewal fee be paid. This would eventually have cost more than the $6,000.00 paid now. You have to look at the long term.

  • reading with interest
    April 06, 2014 - 10:19

    My feeling is a Drivers License is a privilege not a right. If Ms. Hawkes cannot afford her drivers license how can she afford a car or the maintenance that goes with it. Kudo's to Justice Taylor for not giving in. If you do for one you are opening the flood gates for more. I am all for helping those in need, groceries / rent / utilities but it has to stop somewhere. If Ms Hawkes has that much time on her hands to fight the courts she must have time to look for employment. Time for some to help themselves instead of constantly relying on the tax dollars that myself, my family and many many islanders work very hard to earn. That's my rant!

    • agreed
      April 06, 2014 - 11:57

      110% with you on this. Hawkes probably has a cell phone. Does she get the taxpayers to pay her monthly bill too?

  • RIGHT TITLE
    April 06, 2014 - 09:36

    Appears she has a career. Professional Leach on Society. If she fights over 50 dollars for this amount of time good luck trying to get 5000 out of her. This is a prime example of why the system has to be changed.

  • JailTime
    April 06, 2014 - 09:06

    Put her in jail if she can't pay the 5k. Sick of this garbage. The socials systems are in place for people in need not for dishonest lazy people to get by without doing anything for themselves.

    • don
      April 06, 2014 - 15:01

      if she does not have it paid in 12 months then give her 6 years in jail. "not served on weekends". plus interest.