Alberta Human Rights Information Service December 10, 2013

In this issue:

Human rights case law: Tribunal and court decisions

Commission news

Other human rights and diversity news:

Significant dates

Alberta news


Canadian news

Related publications and resources
Honouring the life of Nelson Mandela

The Alberta Human Rights Commission honours one of the greatest advocates of peace, equality and human rights, Mr. Nelson Mandela. In 2001, Mr. Mandela became the first living person to receive honourary Canadian citizenship. Passing away on December 5, 2013, he leaves behind a legacy of unwavering commitment to democracy and justice for all. From Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela:

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Mr. Mandela's passing reminds us of our own commitment to removing the barriers that people face because of discrimination, systemic racism and prejudice, and of our continued need to promote the rights of all people, both here in Alberta and around the world.

HUMAN RIGHTS CASE LAW: TRIBUNAL AND COURT DECISIONS

1. The Commission recently released the following tribunal decisions:

  • Jeff Saunders v. Syncrude Canada Ltd. (November 21, 2013; William D. McFetridge, QC, Tribunal Chair)
  • Mark Carriere v. Boonstra Trucking Ltd. (October 18, 2013; Geeta Bharadia, QC, Tribunal Chair) 

These tribunal decisions can be accessed free of charge through the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website.

2. Important court decision related to human rights:

Bombardier Inc. (Bombardier Aerospace Training Center) c. Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse
2013 J.Q. No. 12486 (Quebec Court of Appeal, September 24, 2013)

Quebec Court of Appeal overturns Tribunal decision, finding there is no evidence that pilot with Pakistani origins was discriminated against when he was denied training at a Montreal facility.

The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal had found discrimination when a pilot, Mr. Latif, was barred from flight training after American authorities had indicated that he was a security risk. The Tribunal held that Mr. Latif's origin had played a role "perhaps minimal but nevertheless a real one" in preventing him from accessing the training facility and program. The Tribunal had held that Bombardier should have investigated whether Mr. Latif was a security threat prior to rejecting him on the American position that he was a threat. A Bombardier official testified that he was told that if they trained Mr. Latif, there would be significant consequences. Canadian companies operating on Canadian soil should not be able to exert pressure to not hire employees.

On appeal by Bombardier, the Quebec Court of Appeal took issue with the Tribunal's reliance on an expert report and testimony from a University of Windsor law professor who testified that American post-9/11 security measures were "riddled with stereotypes." The Court held that it was not enough that a judgment about anti-Arab sentiment in the United States after 9/11 was enough to create the necessary causal link between Mr. Latif's nationality and the American authority's refusal to issue a security certificate.   The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (the Quebec Human Rights Commission) has applied for leave to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

COMMISSION NEWS

1. Chief of the Commission and Tribunals reappointed: The Honourable David Blair Mason, QC, has been reappointed as a Member of the Commission and redesignated as Chief of the Commission and Tribunals of the Alberta Human Rights Commission for a term to expire on June 30, 2014. Read the Order in Council.

2. The Commission is granted intervener status: The Alberta Human Rights Commission (the Commission) has been granted intervener status in the case of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP v. British Columbia (Human Rights Tribunal), 2012 BCCA 313, scheduled to be heard December 13, 2013. The issue in dispute is whether a partner in a law firm can be considered an "employee" under human rights legislation, and thus afforded protection against age discrimination in the workplace. The Commission continues to grapple with the issue of what type of worker is protected under human rights legislation and looks forward to offering the Court its particular perspective and expertise.

3. 40th Anniversary of the Alberta Human Rights Commission:


This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Alberta Human Rights Commission. In 1972, the Honourable Peter Lougheed introduced two human rights bills, the Alberta Bill of Rights and the Individual's Rights Protection Act, which form the basis for Alberta's existing human rights legislative framework. This legislation then led to the creation of the Alberta Human Rights Commission in 1973.

The 40th anniversary of the Commission marks Alberta's longstanding commitment to human rights. This milestone provides the opportunity to reflect upon the many accomplishments that have been made, assess the current challenges and opportunities, and recommit to the work ahead that will advance the Commission's goal of building a province that promotes and protects human rights.

In October, the Commission held events in Calgary and Edmonton to commemorate the 40th anniversary. Amongst the speakers were Alberta's Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, the Honourable Jonathan Denis, QC, and the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, the Honourable Blair Mason, QC, who highlighted the progress that has been made in human rights in Alberta and congratulated staff and the Members of the Commission on their contributions to the Commission's successes over the past 40 years.  Minister Denis brought greetings from Premier Redford and presented a congratulatory letter to the Commission.You can view the video of Premier Redford's greetings.

 


The Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, speaking at the 40th Anniversary of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.


 

The Honourable Jonathan Denis, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, speaking at the 40th Anniversary of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

4. The Commission attended recent events:

  • Celebrating Humanity event: On December 7, 2013, the Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, was honoured at a naming ceremony in Calgary. The Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative (CUAI), in partnership with the Calgary Police Service and the Alberta Human Rights Commission, hosted the event Celebrating Humanity: CUAI Holiday Celebration and Round Dance in celebration of Human Rights Day. Mr. Mason received the name of "Arriving Buffalo Bull" ("Sta mi kso toa" in the Blackfoot language) from Elder Herman Yellow Old Woman. It is rare that a Non-Aboriginal person is honoured with a naming ceremony. Mr. Mason was given his name due to his efforts in positively impacting the relations between the Alberta Human Rights Commission and Aboriginal people in Alberta by supporting communities in their understanding and promotion of human rights. Mr. Mason highlighted that on Human Rights Day "we celebrate and honour all humanity by continuing to remove the barriers that people face because of discrimination, systemic racism and prejudice, and we continue to promote the rights of Aboriginal People" and emphasized that "every step forward in human rights, no matter how small, must be celebrated."

    This holiday event, celebrating volunteers and the community, also included special ceremonies to honour community members, as well as a traditional round dance, drummers and a feast.

     
    The Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, speaking at the Celebrating Humanity: CUAI Holiday Celebration and Round Dance event.

     
    The Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, with Elder Herman Yellow Old Woman after the naming ceremony in Calgary. Mr. Mason was honoured to receive the name of "Arriving Buffalo Bull."

     
    Cam Stewart, Community Consultant, Education and Engagement, Alberta Human Rights Commission, congratulates the Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, after the naming ceremony.

  • Presentation at Alberta Restorative Justice Conference: Mr. Cam Stewart, Community Consultant, Education and Engagement, Alberta Human Rights Commission, was part of a team presenting a pre-conference training workshop at the 7th annual conference of the Alberta Restorative Justice Association held in Edmonton from November 20 to 22, 2013. From the conference guide: The workshop Cultural Issues in Alternate Dispute Resolution is "designed to develop practical working tools and perspectives on which to base inquiry and develop confidence when intervening in culturally laden circumstances." Read more about the workshop and conference. 

  • Employer forum: Navigating the Medical Information Maze: The Commission, in partnership with the Human Resources Institute of Alberta, Enbridge, SMS Equipment, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and the Teamsters Union, hosted a forum, "Navigating the Medical Information Maze," on November 20, 2013 in Edmonton. This was the second session in the Duty to Accommodate employer forum series. The breakfast forum attracted 62 participants from various employer groups. The forum was targeted towards managers of organizations to provide them with information on potential challenges in obtaining and maintaining employee medical information. Three organizations set up information tables at the forum.

    The Commission's Director of Education and Engagement, Cassie Palamar, welcomed the participants on behalf of the Commission and outlined the services and resources available to Albertans to foster equality and reduce discrimination. She encouraged organizations to look within their own workplaces to ensure that their policies and practices are inclusive, fair and respectful. Janice Ashcroft, Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, discussed the human rights framework for obtaining medical information when accommodating mental or physical disabilities. The participants worked on scenarios to broaden their understanding of their responsibilities when medical information is required. A panel of experts, including staff from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and legal counsel from Enbridge Pipelines, presented their perspectives on asking for and retaining medical information and addressed questions from the participants.

  • Presentation to university law school students: The Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, and Janice Ashcroft, Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, spoke to students at a University of Calgary law class on October 1, 2013, and students at a University of Alberta law school class on October 22, 2013 about various human rights and administrative law issues. The students learned about how human rights complaints typically move through the Commission from intake to conciliation and investigation, and finally, where necessary, to a tribunal hearing. Mr. Mason informed the students about his role as Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, and reinforced the importance of the independence of the Commission. Mr. Mason also reviewed the advantages of Tribunal Dispute Resolution, a process which was initiated by the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals and modeled after the Judicial Dispute Resolution process at the courts. Mr. Mason concluded by emphasizing the important contributions of the legal profession in the human rights field and encouraged students to seize every opportunity to use their skills and education to assist Albertans. 

  • 15th anniversary marking Delwin Vriend case: The Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, spoke at an event marking the 15th anniversary of the Delwin Vriend case on October 16, 2013 in Calgary. The event, Human Rights in Alberta: A Conversation with Delwin Vriend, was organized by the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership. You can read more about the event.

  • Presentation to University of Calgary Pro Bono law students: On October 8, 2013, Janice Ashcroft, Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, spoke to Pro Bono law students at the University of Calgary. In an access to justice initiative, Pro Bono Students Canada, in partnership with supervising lawyers from the private bar, the Alberta Human Rights Commission and the University of Calgary, is involved in assisting low income parties who appear before the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal.

  • Presentation to Court of Appeal: On September 27, 2013, Janice Ashcroft, Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, and Sushila Samy, Diversity Specialist, Education and Engagement, Alberta Human Rights Commission, presented a full-day workshop to staff at Court of Appeal in Calgary. The workshop, Harassment and Duty to Accommodate, provided participants with an overview of human rights legislation and employer and employee responsibilities in the accommodation process. The participants also engaged in discussions related to common fact scenarios related to harassment in the workplace.

5. The Commission featured on Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) website: The Alberta Human Rights Commission is a member of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA), which is made up of provincial and territorial commissions and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Each month a different commission takes the lead in preparing a feature article for the CASHRA website. The Commission was the feature agency for October 2013, and provided the article, Engaging Alberta's Aboriginal People in Human Rights Work.

6. Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund:




The Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund (the Fund) supports communities and organizations to make changes so that all Albertans can contribute to the economic, social and cultural life of the province without discrimination. The Fund also provides financial support for outcome-based projects that support changes that build equitable and inclusive communities and organizations.

A recently completed project that was supported by the Fund:

The Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD) has been utilizing their research results on barrier-free health and medical services required by Albertans with disabilities to create useful resources including a user-friendly website and an audit service to assess medical and other facilities for accessibility. The website outlines ACCD's goals on changing public policy on accessible facilities, ways that Albertans can support their campaign through social media networking, and describes their new partnership with the University of Alberta Health Council. The audit service offers an evaluation of a facility to measure accessibility and provides suggestions for improvements. Currently, ACCD offers free accessibility audits in Edmonton and surrounding area and may be able to service other areas of the province if travel costs are reimbursed. For more information, contact accd@accd.net or call 780-488-9088 in Edmonton or 1-800-387-2514 toll-free from outside Edmonton. You can follow ACCD on Facebook or on Twitter at ACCD@ACCDisabilities.

Human rights and multiculturalism scholarship

Students pursuing graduate studies in Canadian human rights or multiculturalism are invited to apply for the Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism. This award encourages graduate studies that will create value for Albertans by promoting informed thinking about Canadian human rights, cultural diversity and multiculturalism. The award was made possible through the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund. There are two awards of $10,000 each-one for Master's level study and one for Doctoral level. The Master's level award honours Pardeep Gundara, one of Alberta's human rights champions, and is known as the Pardeep Singh Gundara Memorial Scholarship.The deadline for applications is February 1, 2014. Download the application form and read about past scholarship recipients.

Recent scholarship recipients:  Camille Dubé, a University of Alberta PhD student, received the Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism. Ms. Dubé will use the scholarship to further research on the social participation experiences of children and youth with disabilities. Ms. Dubé's research will assist policy makers, service providers and educators in deciding how resources are managed, resulting in responsible planning and inclusive program development.

Jaqueline Victoriano Amorim Webb, a Master's student from the University of Calgary received the Pardeep Singh Gundara Memorial Scholarship for her research on the experiences of language brokering as identified by child language brokers, their parents and professionals. Language brokering is the practice of informal interpretation and translation, often undertaken by children whose immigrant families are not proficient in English. Ms. Webb's research will assist policy makers, service providers and educators in providing services for immigrant families.

PLEASE NOTE: In the following sections of the newsletter, we publish news and information provided by other organizations. We also link to other websites related to human rights and diversity. The Commission provides this information as a service and is not responsible for the content provided by other organizations on their websites or by other means. Please direct comments or inquiries regarding these organizations or their websites to the organization in question.

OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIVERSITY NEWS 

Significant dates

Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day: On November 23, 2013, a ceremony was held at the Alberta Legislature to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day in Alberta and to honour the contributions the Ukrainian community has made and continues to make in Alberta. This year marked the 80th anniversary of Holodomor, a famine in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic from 1932 to 1933, when millions of inhabitants died of starvation. On November 4, 2008, Bill 37, Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act, came into force, proclaiming every fourth Saturday in November a day of remembrance in Alberta. Bill 37 received the unanimous support of the Legislative Assembly.

December 10 is Human Rights Day: December 10, 1948 was the day on which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed by member nations of the United Nations. A Canadian, John Humphrey, was the primary author of the Declaration. The members of the UN hoped that the horrors of the recently ended war could be avoided if a universal code of human rights governed the behaviour of individuals and countries. Read more about Human Rights Day and Alberta events taking place to commemorate the day. The Honourable Jonathan Denis, QC, Minister of Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, made a statement about Human Rights Day 2013. You can listen to the audio clip.

The Commission offers a flyer and poster called Celebrate All Year Round to remind Albertans of significant international, national and provincial days related to human rights and diversity. To order the flyer or poster, contact educationcommunityservices@gov.ab.ca or call 403-297-8407 in Calgary. Call toll-free from Alberta locations outside Calgary by first dialing 310-0000 then entering the 10-digit number.

See the list of significant days on the Help Make a Difference website.

Alberta news
 
1. Business leaders to help improve job opportunities for Albertans with disabilities: The Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities, Honourable Frank Oberle, is creating a voluntary Alberta Employer Advisory Council. Members of the council will discuss challenges and identify solutions to help more people with disabilities enter the workforce. You can read the Government of Alberta news release.

2. Progress report on Aboriginal workforce and economic development in Alberta: In 2011, the Government of Alberta released the report Connecting the Dots: Aboriginal Workforce and Economic Development in Alberta proposing 30 recommendations for increasing the participation of Aboriginal people in Alberta's workforce and economy. The report Government of Alberta Response to Connecting the Dots outlined five themes and strategic priorities that focused on the shared responsibility of working in partnership to find solutions. In October 2013, the Government of Alberta released a progress report, Connecting the Dots: Progress Highlights Aboriginal Workforce and Economic Development. From the report: "Stories and activities have been selected to convey how partnerships and collaborations are positively impacting Aboriginal people and communities and the province of Alberta overall." Two initiatives funded by the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund are included in the report.

3. Government passes motion on heritage language schools: On October 28, 2013,  Jason Luan, MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood, proposed Motion 13: Heritage Language Schools. The motion reads:

"Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the government to promote and assist heritage language schooling in collaboration with local school board authorities to provide adequate access to school facilities."

You can read the motion and debate on page 2506 of the October 28, 2013 Alberta Hansard. You can also read the news release issued by the Southern Alberta Heritage Language Association.

4. Provincial publication offers information about Aboriginal people: The Government of Alberta offers a publication to help Albertans gain basic knowledge about First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people in Alberta. From the news release: "This publication offers a starting point for Albertans to learn about the diverse cultures of Aboriginal people, their history, current lives and future aspirations. Creating understanding provides an opportunity for Aboriginal people and other Albertans to work together in building Alberta socially, culturally, and economically." You can download the publication, Aboriginal Peoples of Alberta: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

Canadian news

1. Accessible videos explain how to make a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission: The Canadian Association of the Deaf and the Canadian Human Rights Commission have produced 10 short videos on discrimination and how to make a human rights complaint. The videos are available in fully accessible formats, including DVD and video clips in American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language with English and French captioning and voiceover, and also plain language print versions. You can view the videos.

2. Report on ethno-cultural diversity in Canadian prisons: The 40th Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator was tabled in Parliament on November 26, 2013. The report focuses on ethno-cultural diversity in prisons. From the Office of the Correctional Investigator news release: "In releasing his report, the Correctional Investigator, Mr. Howard Sapers, noted that recent inmate population growth is almost exclusively driven by increases in the composition of ethnically and culturally diverse offenders. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC [Correctional Service of Canada] develop a national Diversity Awareness Training Plan to provide practical and operational training in the areas of diversity, sensitivity and cultural competency." You can read the backgrounder and the full report.

RELATED PUBLICATIONS AND RESOURCES

1. No Place to Sleep: The Right to Housing Canada:
The Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre offers a publication that examines the right to affordable, sufficient and adequate housing. No Place to Sleep: The Right to Housing in Canada (second edition) is available for $25 (plus shipping and handling). For further information or to order the publication, contact Alberta Civil Liberties at aclrc@ucalgary.ca or call 403-220-2505.

2. Human rights education resources: The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights offers guidelines on human rights education:

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