Supreme court tells yoga college to straighten up

A BC Supreme Court judge this week ordered a Vancouver yoga teachers' school to stop offering courses until it meets provincial requirements.

A BC Supreme Court judge this week ordered a Vancouver yoga teachers' school to stop offering courses until it meets provincial requirements.

The Private Career Training Institutions Agency of B.C. suspended Prana Yoga Teacher College on September 10, 2012 and cancelled its registration on October 2, 2012.

PCTIA, the Crown regulator of private career colleges, originally took issue with Prana in June 2012 when the college claimed to be accredited when it allegedly was not, and was allegedly not meeting PCTIA policies on ownership change, student records and dismissal. Prana responded by attempting to rearrange its courses so that they could fall below PCTIA’s regulatory thresholds of 40 hours of instruction and $1,000 of tuition.

PCTIA notified Prana on September 5, 2012, that it could not unilaterally decide to operate outside the act. Justice Peter Voith noted that Prana did not appeal the suspension or cancellation and it claimed to offer only spiritual training.

Voith’s January 8 written decision said “yoga instructor” falls within National Occupational Classification, though “so too, do I observe, do occupations as diverse as bridge, chess and Tai Chi instructor.”

Voith also noted that the Prana website continued to advertise a 200-hour, $3,500 (before discounts) level 1 Yoga Teacher program. A level 2 upgrade was 300 hours and $5,400 before discounts.

Voith wrote that one cannot contract out of legislation enacted in the public interest. Attempting to restructure fees from a global tuition scheme to a series of smaller payments for individual courses or program segments would not likely render the act inapplicable, he said.

“They would be ineffective because they would represent a transparent attempt to circumvent the object of the act and regulation,” according to the judgment.

Voith ordered Prana to pay PCTIA $2,500 in costs.

The decision on January 8 was the result of a November 23, 2012, BC Supreme Court hearing. Prana was represented by two non-lawyers associated with the school. Michelle Jones of Lawson Lundell represented PCTIA.

In a related matter, Prana filed a conflict of interest complaint to the Office of the Ombudsperson over PCTIA’s hiring of Lawson Lundell. PCTIA’s registrar Karin Kirkpatrick is married to Lawson Lundell partner Murray Campbell. Kirkpatrick volunteered on Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal leadership campaign. Clark appointed Kirkpatrick to the Judicial Council of the Provincial Court of BC in July 2011.

Kirkpatrick informed PCTIA’s then-chair Kelly Rainsforth in a February 8, 2012, email that her “soon-to-be husband” was a partner at the firm. She claims the decision to retain Lawson Lundell was made by PCTIA in-house lawyer Luce Lafontaine. Lafontaine reports to Kirkpatrick.

BMackin@biv.com

@bobmackin

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