Statements, publications, notices, signs, symbols, emblems or other representations: How to resolve a complaint

Trying to resolve a human rights issue before making a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission can help all of the parties involved:

  • find a solution quickly;
  • open a dialogue to better understand each other; and
  • create a better, mutually satisfying solution to the issue.

This web page discusses the benefits of resolving human rights issues through informal processes. An individual may also choose to contact the Commission to seek advice about how to deal with alleged discrimination. The individual may decide to make a human rights complaint to the Commission. A complaint must be made within one year after the alleged incident of discrimination. For information about making a complaint to the Commission, see Making and resolving human rights complaints.

For the individual who believes a statement is discriminatory

  1. Find out who made the statement, when the statement was made, and whether it was released from a particular organization.
  2. Consider whether you would be safe discussing resolution with the alleged offender.
  3. Proceed with caution if you believe you are dealing with a hate group or a message that promotes violence.
  4. If the statement is particularly hateful or promotes violence, contact the police. Some statements may constitute a criminal act under the federal Criminal Code, in addition to being discriminatory under the Alberta Human Rights Act.
  5. Your local police service or RCMP may have a special unit that deals with hate and bias crimes.

    In Calgary and Edmonton, you can contact:

    Calgary Police Service Diversity Resources Unit on Hate and Bias Crime

    Edmonton Police Service Hate and Bias Crime

    Visit the Alberta RCMP website

If you feel a resolution could be discussed safely then you may wish to try one of the following suggestions.

  1. If the offending statement is a newspaper or magazine article, then write your own opposing letter-to-the-editor voicing your opinion.
  2. Contact the organization to discuss possible solutions, such as: 
    • getting a retraction;
    • writing a letter to the editor;
    • publishing another more balanced article;
    • taking down the offending sign;
    • changing the offending caricature or drawing to a mutually agreed upon image;
    • taking the offending item off the store's shelves; or
    • providing other books and information to counter the offending information.
  3. It may be helpful to write a letter to the organization to tell them how the statement or other representation makes you feel. Let them know:
    • what the facts of the situation are;
    • where you saw the statement or other representation that offended you;
    • how you feel it creates hatred or contempt for a particular group; and
    • what you would like to happen.
  4. Make sure you use non-accusatory language in all of your communications by just stating the facts. This will open the door for communication on the issue and let them know that you want to find a resolution. In some instances, organizations will not have been aware that the representation was offensive. Open communication will promote an early resolution. If you find that the organization's representatives are abusive, then cease the discussion and consider other options.

For the party that issues a statement that may be discriminatory

People who come to you with a complaint may be considering making a human rights complaint to the Commission. By listening with an open mind to their complaint before they go to the Commission, you may prevent legal action. Here are some ways to promote a resolution:

  1. Listen with an open mind to the person's complaint.
  2. Review the What you need to know section on statements, publications, notices, signs, symbols, emblems, other representations to find out more about human rights in this area.
  3. Discuss the situation with the complainant and suggest solutions.
  4. Offer to publish a counter opinion to a newspaper article.
  5. Consider taking offensive items off the shelf.
  6. Offer to put information with a counter opinion close by the offending information.

Revised: March 28, 2013

 


The Alberta Human Rights Commission is an independent commission of the Government of Alberta.

Due to confidentiality concerns, the Commission cannot reply to complaints of discrimination by email. Please contact the Commission by phone or regular mail if you have a specific complaint.

You can access information about making FOIP requests for records held by the Commission on our Contact us page.

The Commission will make publications available in accessible formats upon request for people with disabilities who do not read conventional print.