Vancouver Jewish school asks Shaw to ID anonymous e-mailer

After alleged scurrilous claims circulate online, Talmud Torah files lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court

Photo: TalmudTorah.com

Jewish independent school Talmud Torah in Vancouver is asking Shaw Communications to hand over the identity of a customer believed to be behind a “disparaging” email circulating widely within the school community.

According to the Canadian Bar Association of B.C. there is legal precedent for internet service providers, such as Shaw, being compelled by court order to hand over personal information.

Vancouver Talmud Torah Association has taken issue with a man, called John Doe in court documents, who sent an email in late January outlining various concerns, according to BC Supreme Court filings.

Talmud Torah is looking to sue John Doe for what it says is “false and defamatory statements” as well as revealing confidential and privileged documents. The school claimed on Jan. 31 it will seek a court order, if necessary, to force Shaw to hand over the information of the IP address connected to the original email sender.

John Doe describes the school as a “toxic environment” rife with bullying, financial mismanagement, harassment and privacy violations, notes an affidavit from Marko Milisavljevic, the school’s director of information.

Milisavljevic claimed that despite his best efforts, he could not determine the identity of the original email sender, who used the pseudonym Benjamin Abramsom from a Shaw account. Milisavljevic said he found no evidence the school’s computer system had been hacked. He noted a requirement that employees must protect their passwords, which he said suggests John Doe is “likely” an employee or former employee.

John Doe singled out head administrator Cathy Lowenstein, saying she has hired friends, and claiming that she earns $360,000 in salary.

In fact, Talmud Torah is a registered charity with enrolment of about 600 Kindergarten-Grade 7 students each year. Its Canada Revenue Agency filings for 2016-17 show one employee earning $250,000-$299,000. Three other school employees earned between $120,000-$159,000. By comparison, in 2016-17 Surrey School District, the largest district in B.C., paid superintendent Jordan Tinney $246,705. A secondary school principal at Vancouver School District may earn around $125,000 per year.

John Doe said the school tried to suppress a human rights complaint of an employee who was allegedly terminated after being diagnosed with a kidney condition.

John Doe also said teachers are routinely “bullied and intimidated” and some have quit their jobs, choosing to “forget about the whole ordeal.”

The association, its lawyers, Lowenstein and Shaw did not respond to requests for comment from Glacier Media.

The Canadian Bar Association of B.C. said a court could order an ISP to provide sufficient contact information if it is judged the claim is reasonable enough to move ahead with a lawsuit. In this case Talmud Torah will need to have enough evidence for a judge to proceed with an order against Shaw, which has an obligation to protect its customers’ privacy.

CPABC said in cases such as these, the public expects a judge – if there is enough reasonable justification – to allow the person behind an anonymous account to be identified.

Located at 998 West 26th Avenue, Talmud Torah recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation. 

gwood@glaciermedia.ca