Alberta Human Rights Information Service June 18, 2020

In this issue:
National Indigenous Peoples Day
Human rights case law: Tribunal decisions
     1.  Recent tribunal decisions
     2.  Summary of a recent tribunal decision
Commission news
     1.  COVID-19 and human rights
     2.  Countering racism in Alberta
     3.  Commission sets a new record
     4.  One-year anniversary of the Case Inventory Resolution Project
     5.  Revisions to the Tribunal Dispute Resolution (TDR) process
     6.  Just released! Renewed complaint guide and forms
     7.  2018-19 Annual Report now available
     8.  2019 Human Rights and Multiculturalism Scholarship Recipients
     9.  Recently completed Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant projects
     10.The Commission in the community

Other news
     1.  Call for proposals: Government of Canada's Enabling Accessibility Fund
     2.  Monitoring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

NATIONAL INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY

June 21st marks National Indigenous Peoples Day. It is a day for all people to connect with one another and share in Indigenous culture, ceremony, and tradition. It is a time to come together and celebrate, but it is also a time to increase our understanding of Indigenous history and reflect on the issues facing Alberta's Indigenous people today.

This June marks the 5th anniversary of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future and Calls to Action reports. The Alberta Human Rights Commission has made sincere efforts in the area of "truth," with all staff participating in ongoing education on the historic and current discrimination Indigenous people have endured. The "reconciliation" journey of the Commission has been an ongoing process, where meaningful relationships have been fostered with community, including partnering with the Calgary Police Service to host an annual Round Dance. This journey continues as the Commission looks at its own systems and continues to build trust with all of Alberta's Indigenous Peoples.

On June 21st, Alberta's First Nations and Métis communities will share their cultures and teachings at community events throughout the province. Participating in local events provides an opportunity for non-Indigenous people to experience and learn more about Indigenous culture and to connect with Indigenous people in their communities.

For more information on events near you, visit:

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 a recent tribunal decision
Aziz v Calgary Firefighters Association, 2020 AHRC 40 (CanLII) (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, May 29, 2020)
Pension plan is bona fides
The complainant worked as a firefighter. He alleged that the pension plan that had been incorporated into the Collective Agreement between the City of Calgary and the Union violated his rights by requiring all firefighters to retire at age 60. The respondent argued that mandatory retirement was necessary because of the physical demands of the position. However, the respondent said that the real issue before the Tribunal was not the analysis of whether the mandatory retirement provisions were non-discriminatory, but whether the pension plan itself was bona fides. A bona fide pension plan was exempted from review under section 7(2) of the Alberta Human Rights Act.

To meet this test, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in Potash had ruled that an employer must show that the pension plan is legitimate, adopted in good faith, and not aimed at defeating protected rights. Chair Gottheil considered whether he could review the validity of the component parts of the pension plan. He was referred to cases in other jurisdictions where the court had attempted to depart from the majority rule in Potash. However, the Chair found that Potash had been followed in Alberta and was clear that an examination of the specific mandatory retirement provisions was not part of the bona fide analysis as long as the pension plan met the Potash test. The majority in Potash had found that as long as the pension plan satisfied the test as a whole, the component parts were exempt from review.

Chair Gottheil reviewed the pension plan and found that the City could rely on the exemption, as the pension plan met the test and was exempt under section 7(2) of the Act. The SCC was clear that it was not appropriate for the mandatory retirement plan itself to be reviewed. The complaint against the City was dismissed. However, the Chair asked for further submissions from the parties on whether the Union was also exempt from a claim of discrimination under the Act.

COMMISSION NEWS

1. COVID-19 and human rights
Although Alberta has lifted its state of emergency, the province continues to recommend that, where possible, government employees work from home. In order to comply with social distancing recommendations, Commission employees have been working remotely. While we work to ensure the health and safety of the public and our staff, we also aim to minimize disruption to services as much as possible. We encourage people to communicate with us by phone, email, fax, and mail.

Visit the COVID-19 and Human Rights page for more information about general principles on maintaining best practices in human rights in Alberta.

2. Countering racism in Alberta
In response to recent issues relating to racism in Alberta, Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, released messages on countering racism during COVID-19 and raising our voices against anti-Black racism.

The Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) released the Serving All in Canada e-course for service providers in Canada. This course offers information on what consumer racial profiling is and how to prevent it, behaviours that respect all customers, and rights and responsibilities as they pertain to racism and discrimination. It 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. Visit CASHRA's virtual classroom for more e-courses.

3. Commission sets a new record
The Commission has been working to improve its service provision and find efficiencies. This includes renewing its complaint resolution process. As a result of these changes, we are pleased to announce that the Commission closed 1,136 files in 2019-20. That is more than double last year's 533 file closures, and well past the highest record of 774 in 2003-04.

4. One-year anniversary of the Case Inventory Resolution Project
The Case Inventory Resolution Project recently reached its one-year anniversary date. The project launched in April 2019 to deal with the case inventory of approximately 1,700 files more efficiently. After 14 months, 89% of those files are either being actively worked on or are already completed. The project, which uses face-to-face conciliation, has achieved a 78% resolution rate, which is higher than previously used methods. This is a significant achievement and shows that the conciliation and investigation process changes are working. The results continue to indicate that the Commission is on track to resolve all pre-2019 files by March 31, 2021.

 Doughnut chart showing Awaiting assignment 11%, Assigned 52%, and Closed 37%.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Revisions to the Tribunal Dispute Resolution (TDR) process
To help further the Commission's efforts to continually improve our service provision and find efficiencies, the Tribunal Office is making changes to the scheduling process for Tribunal Dispute Resolution (TDR). For any TDR scheduled after May 19, 2020, the Tribunal Office will schedule a date for the full-day TDR and provide that date to the parties six weeks in advance. If a party has a scheduling conflict, they have five business days to make a request to reschedule the TDR. In their request, the party must provide alternate dates that fall within 45 days of the scheduled TDR date. Any request to reschedule made more than five business days after receiving the date will not be granted, unless there are exceptional circumstances (for example, an illness).

6. Just released! Renewed complaint guide and forms
Part of the Commission's complaint resolution process renewal is updating the forms for making and responding to a human rights complaint. An updated guide, revised complaint and response forms, as well as new forms for authorized representatives and litigation representatives, are now available. These simplified documents utilize a plain language lens, making it easier for Albertans to complete the forms and provide the necessary information. Completing the forms digitally and submitting by email is an added benefit. You can access the forms, as well as a self-assessment tool that allows people who feel they have experienced discrimination to determine if their issue falls under the Alberta Human Rights Act, at albertahumanrights.ab.ca/forms.

7. 2018-19 Annual Report now available
Tabled on March 4, 2020, the Commission's 2018-19 Annual Report is now available on our website.

8. 2019 Human Rights and Multiculturalism Scholarship Recipients
The 2019 scholarship recipients of the Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism have been announced. This award encourages graduate studies that will create value for Albertans by promoting informed thinking about Canadian human rights, cultural diversity, and multiculturalism. The Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund made this award possible. The Master's level award honours Pardeep Gundara, one of Alberta's human rights champions.

  • Jennifer Ward, a University of Alberta PhD student, received the doctoral level Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism. Jennifer will use the scholarship to further research examining the decolonization and Indigenization of Alberta post-secondary institutions. This research will utilize Indigenous perspectives in creating safe, supportive, and barrier-free learning, teaching, and working environments. Jennifer's research aims to reduce racism and racialized events in the academic environment and community as a whole.

  • Jonathan Lai, a master's student from the University of Alberta, received the Pardeep Singh Gundara Memorial Scholarship for his research on the risks of ageism in the workplace. This research will examine the role that worker age plays in the relationship among positive psychosocial job factors that contribute to worker engagement. Findings from this research will help inform workplace strategies that prevent age discrimination and promote equitable human resource policies for an aging workforce.

9. Recently completed Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant projects

HREMF graphic.jpg 

Several grant recipients under the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund have recently completed their funded projects:

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

  • Diversity Days: On January 28, 2020, Michael Gottheil provided an opening address for the University of Calgary's Diversity Days kickoff. The theme for the address was "Imagining a World without Undue Hardship."

  • Disclosure in the Workplace: On January 30, 2020, Michael Gottheil provided a keynote address for a seminar on Disclosure in the Workplace. Prospect Human Services hosted this breakfast event in Calgary. Emmanuel Owusu, Human Rights Officer for the Commission, presented on a panel discussing how to create a workplace culture where people feel comfortable disclosing disabilities. Rod Miller was the panel moderator and other panelists included Liz Frazer-Fast and Stefanie Crepin.

OTHER NEWS

1. Call for proposals: Government of Canada's Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF)
On June 2, 2020, the Government of Canada announced the launch of a call for proposals under the newly modernized Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) - small projects component. The EAF provides funding for projects that make communities and workplaces more accessible for persons with disabilities. It also created more opportunities for persons with disabilities to take part in community activities, programs, and services, as well as to access employment. The call for applications closes July 13, 2020.

2. Monitoring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) is undertaking an important initiative. This initiative asks all rights holders from across the nation to help shape how the CHRC will monitor the implementation of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Canada. At this stage, the CHRC is asking for input in the form of an online survey, which is available in English, French, ASL, and LSQ. This initiative is essential in helping to protect the rights of people with disabilities across Canada, which is why it is important for the CHRC to engage with and hear from individuals from all parts of the country. The survey closes July 17, 2020.

 

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Our vision is a vibrant and inclusive Alberta where the rich diversity of people is celebrated and respected, and where everyone has the opportunity to fully participate in society, free from discrimination.