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January 30, 2007 
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Twins, 10, cry foul over U of O expulsion
Registration a mistake, university says
By LAURA CZEKAJ AND DAVE PIZER, OTTAWA SUN


Wendy Foster says the University of Ottawa is discriminating against her 10-year-old twin sons Sebastien and Douglas by expelling them from a course. No one questioned their age when they registered and were issued student cards. (A.D. WILSON/SUN MEDIA)

Accusations of age discrimination are being lobbed at the University of Ottawa by 10-year-old twins who were registered in a course before being expelled in the fall.

Sebastien and Douglas Foster filed complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission on the basis of age discrimination after the school deregistered them from the Science in Society course they had been attending.

ISSUED STUDENT CARDS

They say the university knew about their age, accepted their fees, issued them student cards and allowed them to complete more than half the term before expelling them.

Their mother, Wendy Foster, said the school never gave a reason for expelling her kids.

"That's the really tough part about it, is that we were never given an official explanation," she said. "They just expelled the children -- without reason, without dialogue."

However, the university said the expulsions had nothing to do with age, but the fact that the twins didn't have a high school diploma and were not in the process of obtaining one, a requirement for acceptance. They also don't have work experience to make up for the lack of high school.

"We are rather surprised that the mother would pursue this course of action," said Lyse Huot, University of Ottawa director of communications. "It was an honest mistake; somebody wasn't looking at the dates when they registered the person and action was taken to deregister them. Unfortunately, the mother decided to pursue this in a more public fashion."

The university said the mistake was detected shortly after registration and the mother was contacted by phone and by mail to notify her.

The mother was also informed she would be reimbursed for the amount she had paid to date for tuition. The university says Foster had not paid the full amount.

When asked why her boys wanted to attend university, Wendy passed the phone to her son Sebastien.

"I wanted to enter this course because I want to make a lot of decisions ... and I get to express my opinions a lot more in this class," said the North Gower-Marlborough Public School student. He said he's learned about "the Afghanistan war that's going on and about how many animals are being killed for food and a lot of things."

Professor Denis Rancourt, who teaches the course, said the twins were in the class with his knowledge and were full participants. Even after expulsion, he said they continued to attend class and took the final exam, both passing with a "Satisfactory."

NO PREREQUISITES

Rancourt said the course is open to all community members and there are no prerequisites, meaning high school was not necessary.

"I support the students," said the professor. "In fact, I wrote a letter to my dean when I learned that they had been expelled ... saying I felt this decision was a mistake."

The course is informally known as the "Activism Course" and previously caused a stir on campus when a student complained that what was being taught didn't match the course description.


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