Alberta Human Rights Information Service March 18, 2021

In this issue:

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is March 21

Human rights case law: Tribunal decisions
     1. Recent Tribunal decisions
     2. Summary of recent Tribunal decisions

Commission news
     1. New Commission bylaws approved
     2. Alberta Police Act review
     3. Case Inventory Resolution Project update
     4. Human Rights in the Workplace online public workshop
     5. Update from the Tribunal Office
     6. Career Opportunity: Human Rights Officer
     7. Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant project

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IS MARCH 21

IDERD2021.png
United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/end-racism-day

March 21st marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is recognized by the United Nations in honour of those who lost their lives in the Sharpeville, South Africa massacre in 1960, where during peaceful protest, 69 anti-apartheid protestors died and over 300 were wounded.

Message from Michael Gottheil

To recognize this important day, read a message from Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission.

United Nations 2021 Campaign Theme

"Youth Standing Up Against Racism" is the 2021 theme. It engages the public through #FightRacism, which aims to foster a global culture of tolerance, equality, and anti-discrimination and calls on each and every one of us to stand up against racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes.

To learn more about this international day, visit the UN.org website.

Events in the province

This year, there are several free virtual events being hosted in Alberta to commemorate this significant day, including:

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

Duty to accommodate in drug and alcohol cases: addiction and medical use

Kvaska v Gateway Motors (Edmonton) Ltd., 2020 AHRC 94 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, December 14, 2020)
The complainant, Kvaska, worked for Gateway Motors Ltd. as a car salesperson. There was evidence that seven months into his employment he started drinking heavily. Many times, his spouse said she would drive him to work because he was unable to function. She testified that on these days, he was visibly drunk and smelled of alcohol. At one point, the finance manager warned the complainant that the owner would not put up with drinking on the job.

The complainant realized he needed help. He asked the sales manager about what would happen if he needed a medical leave of absence, and he requested disability benefit forms from human resources, but he would not say what they were for. He then saw his doctor and sought a treatment program.

Before finding help, the complainant attended work on a Saturday very drunk. He was belligerent in a staff meeting. The general manager noted how severely intoxicated he was and later told him not to come into work on Monday. The respondent did not communicate further with the complainant until he showed up at work on Wednesday and discovered he had been terminated. He immediately told the manager about his alcohol addiction and asked if he could at least stay on company health benefits while in rehabilitation. The respondent refused his request.

The evidence supported that the complainant had an addiction. It was undisputed that he was terminated for showing up drunk, but the respondent argued that addiction, as a disability, was not a factor in the termination. They argued that on that day, prescription medicine was the problem and that, nevertheless, Gateway Motors Ltd. staff were unaware of the complainant's alcohol addiction. Chair Oviatt found that there was evidence the respondent knew that the complainant was drinking at work. The employer knew or ought to have known about the complainant's addiction, but took no steps to learn more or accommodate him. The Tribunal awarded Kvaska $30,000 in damages for injury to dignity, plus lost wages and benefits. The case reviews the jurisprudence on the factors analyzed in damage assessment.

See also:

Hannah v Tolko Industries Ltd., 2021 AHRC 48 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, February 22, 2021) where the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Michael Gottheil, upheld the complainant's appeal and the complaint was referred to the Tribunal. In this case, an employment offer was made to the complainant, Clayton Hannah, upon completion of a drug screening test. Before the test, Hannah admitted to using cannabis for an illness and because of that admission, the employer requested further testing. However, the employer said that it rescinded the offer before the additional tests were completed because of the tone of Hannah's emails. The complaint was referred to the Tribunal to assess whether the employer was justified in putting the offer of employment on hold and later withdrawing it.

Bird v Lafarge Canada Inc., 2021 AHRC 50 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, February 23, 2021) where the complainant's appeal to the Chief was dismissed by Tribunal Member Ringseis. In this case, the complainant admitted to having a prescription for cannabis, but only after he was in an accident with a company vehicle. The employer terminated the complainant for failure to disclose his cannabis use under their drug and alcohol policy. The information in the complaint supported that the employer had no knowledge of the complainant's disability, prescription, or need for accommodation.

COMMISSION NEWS

1.  New Commission bylaws approved

The Minister of Justice and Solicitor General approved the Commission's new bylaws on December 1, 2020. These bylaws were the product of many months of consultation and review, forming the basis to guide its new processes and better serve the public.

2.  Alberta Police Act review

In the fall of 2020, the Government of Alberta invited the Alberta Human Rights Commission to provide input into the Police Act review. To help inform its submission, the Commission engaged with stakeholders, receiving input from 41 diverse stakeholder groups across the province, representing perspectives from Indigenous, ethno-cultural, faith, disability, 2SLGBTQ+, academic, and legal communities. This feedback on opportunities to advance equitable policies and programs in policing helped inform the Commission's recommendations towards improving the Alberta Police Act and Police Service Regulation, including the following areas:

  • Representation of community diversity in commissions, committees, and boards
  • Recruitment of police officers and civilian employees
  • Human rights-related training for police services, commissions, committees, and boards
  • Transparency and accountability in complaints processes
  • Ethical and collaborative collection of disaggregated data
  • Addressing systemic discrimination

3.  Case Inventory Resolution Project update

The Case Inventory Resolution Project launched in April 2019 to deal with the inventory of approximately 1,700 files more efficiently. This included conducting conciliation meetings via face-to-face and virtual mediation, which produced positive results. The current conciliation resolution rate is 71 per cent and this rate has been maintained since switching to all virtual meetings during the pandemic. The current average number of days required to complete an investigation is 123 days, which is dramatically less than the 300 days timeline prior to the project.

As of March 1, 2021, 99.9 per cent of files have been assigned and 74 per cent of the files are complete. Of the files that remain open, seven per cent are in the regions at the investigation or conciliation stage, five per cent are with the Director's Office, and 14 per cent are at the tribunal stage.

These statistics continue to indicate that the Commission's changes to its processes have significantly reduced the complaint inventory, resulting in more efficient complaint processing timelines while maintaining or increasing complaint resolution rates.

Case Inventory Resolution Project File Status (74% closed, 7% Investigation/Conciliation, 19% Director or Tribunal stage 

4.  Human Rights in the Workplace online public workshop

The Commission is pleased to expand its offering of online Human Rights in the Workplace public workshops as a way to increase accessibility to information and resources. After successfully piloting the online format in January 2021, the Commission has scheduled four new workshop dates beginning in April. These workshops provide participants with basic human rights information, including information about Alberta's human rights legislation, concepts like the duty to accommodate, and strategies for preventing harassment in the workplace.

Read more about the Commission's public workshops, upcoming dates, and to register.

5.  Update from the Tribunal Office

In an effort to assist parties and the general public in understanding the tribunal process, the Commission website's tribunal section has been updated.

Updates on the webpages include:

  • Information on how to file and respond to an appeal (request for review) under section 26 of the Alberta Human Rights Act,
  • Information on what to expect at tribunal dispute resolution and a tribunal hearing, including each parties' responsibility before and during the proceedings, and
  • Links to tribunal forms and resources, such as tribunal practice directions, protocols, and the notice of withdrawal form.

The Tribunal Office has also created/updated the following Practice Directions:

  • Adjournments (New)
  • Bankrupt respondents and stayed proceedings (New)
  • Information to be filed prior to a hearing (Updated)
  • Recordings and transcripts of proceedings (Updated)
  • Struck and dissolved respondents (New)

6.  Career Opportunity: Human Rights Officer

The Commission is seeking to fill multiple Human Rights Officer roles within the organization. The position will help advance and protect human rights for Albertans through responding to public inquiries via the confidential inquiry line, helping people understand human rights law and the complaint process, assessing complaints, interpreting and applying legislation, and providing investigation and/or conciliation services to resolve accepted complaints. The job posting closes on April 5, 2021.

7.  Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant project

 

A grant recipient under the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund (HREMF) has recently completed their funded project:

  • The College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA) has begun the process of addressing systemic and individual discrimination of Indigenous people within Alberta's health system. With the assistance of an Indigenous Cultural Advisor and members of the community (including Indigenous Elders and nurses throughout Alberta), CARNA developed and implemented a learning program for their staff called Stronger Together: Learning Through Indigenous Perspectives. They describe the extensive online course as a way to "increase knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and promote nursing care that is compassionate and trauma-informed towards Indigenous Peoples in Alberta." Their goal is for all regulated nurses in Alberta to utilize these new understandings and knowledge in ways that ultimately improve nursing care broadly. The course is open to 38,000 CARNA members and the CARNA council has recently discussed a potential move towards mandating the course when members renew. In addition, CARNA drafted a position statement entitled Supporting Culturally Safe Care, which will help ensure respectful engagement free from racism and discrimination so that the client is a powerful player, not a passive receiver of health care.

    For more information on this project, please send inquiries through CARNA's contact form or to jpeacock@nurses.ab.ca.
 
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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.