Alberta Human Rights Information Service September 18, 2019

In this issue:
Human rights case law: Tribunal decisions
Commission news

HUMAN RIGHTS CASE LAW: TRIBUNAL DECISIONS

1. Recent tribunal decisions
You can read all tribunal decisions free of charge on the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII)website.

2. Summary of recent tribunal decisions:
Pratt v University of Alberta, 2019 AHRC 24 (CanLII) (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, June 24, 2019)
Tribunal finds discrimination based on mental disability
The complainant worked for the University of Alberta. The employer was concerned about the complainant’s performance. The complainant was having difficulty with memory, focus and concentration. The employer was aware that the complainant was having difficulties regarding her brother’s death. The employer had noticed that the complainant’s performance and interest in her position was waning and therefore had been considering terminating the complainant. She eventually told her supervisor that she needed to alter some of her duties and that she was going to counselling. The employer interpreted this as disinterest in her position and went forward with the termination the next day. The Tribunal Chair found that the respondent should have understood that the complainant was asking to modify her duties because of problems with her mental health. The respondent had a duty to make further inquiries into the complainant’s health status, but instead terminated her.

The Tribunal awarded the complainant $20,000 for injury to dignity plus 18 months of lost wages. The Tribunal reviewed cases on reinstatement and found that the employer was a large employer and that the reinstatement was an appropriate remedy. The employer was not, however, required to place the complainant in the exact position as before.

X. v Mount Royal University, 2019 AHRC 31 (CanLII) (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, July 23, 2019)
The Chief of the Commission upholds Director’s dismissal of complaint alleging discrimination based on mental disability
The complainant alleged that the respondent, Mount Royal University, discriminated against her in providing services when she was a student at the university. The complainant had a number of complex mental health issues. The university’s Accessibility Services Office established an accommodation plan that worked relatively well. However, the complainant’s requests for additional time with professors for one-to-one dialogue put pressure on faculty who only had three hours of office time for approximately 100 to 120 students. The complainant felt that she needed unfettered and unlimited access to professors’ time. The university submitted that the complainant was an extremely frequent user of university services. The university asked the complainant to sign a behavioural contract, which limited the amount of time she could have with instructors, among other things. The complainant filed a human rights complaint.

The Director dismissed the complaint. The complainant appealed the dismissal of the complaint under section 26 of the Alberta Human Rights Act to the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals who upheld the Director’s dismissal. The Chief found that the university had a legitimate interest in ensuring respectful and non-disruptive conduct on campus. The information did not support that the behavioural contract limited the complainant’s accommodation needs.

COMMISSION NEWS

1. Upcoming Human Rights in the Workplace Public Workshops

You can still register for the following winter public workshops:
Edmonton: February 26, 2020
Calgary: March 4, 2020

You can read more or view the full schedule of upcoming public workshops.

2. New e-courses launched: 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. CASHRA recently released two new e-courses in their virtual classroom:

  • Serving All in Canada focuses on providing discrimination-free services to the public. This course was launched in partnership with the Retail Council of Canada, a non-profit association representing more than 45,000 retail stores including independent merchants, regional and national mass and specialty chains.
  • Safer Spaces in Canada focuses on preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.

3. The Chief of the Commission and Tribunals in the community
Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, presented at the following events:

  • St. Mary’s University presentation: On September 3, 2019, Michael Gottheil presented to over 50 academic and administrative staff at St. Mary’s University in Calgary, to help prepare them of the 2019/20 academic school year. Through Skype, Mr. Gottheil spoke about the duty to accommodate students with disabilities and the rights and responsibilities under the Alberta Human Rights Act. After Mr. Gottheil’s presentation, Cam Stewart, Acting Manager of the Communication, Education and Engagement section of the Commission, co-facilitated case study-based conversations with the attendees.
  • Respect, Equity, Diversity Project in Post-Secondary Campus: On August 15, 2019, Michael Gottheil offered the keynote speech via Skype to participants attending the Respect, Equity, Diversity Project in Post-Secondary Campus event at the University of Lethbridge downtown campus. The event was hosted by the Support Network of Academics of Colour Plus (SNAC+). Mr. Gottheil spoke about the importance of using a human rights lens in both academic and non-academic settings on campuses, emphasizing the value of implementing restorative practices in mediating incidents. 
  • Canadian Multiculturalism Day Forum: Michael Gottheil served on a panel at a Canadian Multiculturalism Day Forum, sponsored by Asian Heritage Foundation - Southern Calgary, on June 27, 2019 at the Regency Restaurant. The panel explored the topic of equitable involvement of all Canadians in society and the elimination of barriers that restrict full participation.

Presenters at Canadian Multiculturalism Day Form: Roy Pogorzelski, Teresa Wo-Paw, Patti Pon, Michael Gottheil
Michael Gottheil (right) poses with other presenters at the Canadian Multiculturalism Day Forum. From the left: Roy Pogorzelski, Director of Indigenous Student Affairs, University of Lethbridge; Teresa Woo-Paw, Chair of the Asian Heritage Foundation; and Patti Pon, President and CEO Calgary Arts Development.

  • 37th Annual Labour Arbitration and Policy Conference: Michael Gottheil served as a panel member at the 37th Annual Labour Arbitration and Policy Conference on June 14, 2019 in Calgary. The members of the panel addressed the topic of accommodating family status in the workplace. 

  • Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education (CAPDHHE) 2019 National Conference: Michael Gottheil provided the keynote speech at the CAPDHHE 2019 National Conference at MacEwan University on June 13, 2019. This year’s conference theme, SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: Standing Up for Human Rights and Equity Values, spoke to the challenges of human rights and equity work in the post-secondary sector. Mr. Gottheil highlighted the challenges in building a welcome and inclusive environment within a university environment where academic freedom and the healthy exchange of ideas is fundamental to its purpose.  

4. Recently Completed Grant Projects



Pride Centre of Edmonton

The Pride Centre of Edmonton has increased community awareness of changes to the Alberta Human Rights Act that includes gender identity and gender expression as grounds for discrimination. With a multi-year grant from the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund, this project researched and organized data of known support services for sexual and gender diverse Albertans and identified opportunities for improvement for these services. Community feedback helped to formulate workshops that were presented to employers, service providers and individuals in nine communities. Two video clips, Gender Does Not Define Me and Trans at Work were developed as part of the curriculum. For information on the videos and resources, email Hello@pridecentreofedmonton.ca

City of Chestermere
Funded by a Community Inclusion Grant for Alberta Municipal Governments, the City of Chestermere has increased its municipal leadership’s capacity and investment in community initiatives that foster inclusion. The success of several diversity community events (including an inaugural Pride Parade, Diwali Celebration, Canada Day festivities and other events), prepared the way for the appointment of a Diversity and Inclusion Strategist. City leaders have committed to the development of diversity and inclusion policies and Chestermere just recently became a signatory member of the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities (formerly called the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination). The process and results of this project were shared with seven similar-sized municipalities at an Inclusion Forum hosted by the Southern Alberta Inclusion Coalition on April 24, 2019. For more information, email Diversity@chestermere.ca.

5. Passing of Charlach Mackintosh, former Chief Commissioner, Alberta Human Rights Commission: The Commission notes with sadness the passing of Charlach Mackintosh, former Chief Commissioner of the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Mr. Mackintosh served as Chief Commissioner, providing stability and guidance to the Commission, from 1994 to 2008. You can read Mr. Mackintosh’s obituary.

6. New members of the Commission appointed: On August 15, 2019, the Lieutenant Governor in Council appointed five members of the Commission. The new members of the Commission are:

• Doris Bonora
• Teresa Haykowsky    
• Collin May
• Erika Ringseis
• Moin Yahya

You can read the biographies of the members of the Commission and the Order in Council.

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