Sign In

Alberta Human Rights Information Service June 20, 2012

In this issue:

Commission news

Other human rights and diversity news

Alberta news

Related publications and resources


1. Lieutenant Governor in Council appoints new Commission Director: On March 8, 2012, the Lieutenant Governor in Council appointed Don Smallwood as Director of the Alberta Human Rights Commission for a one-year term, beginning on April 2, 2012. Mr. Smallwood holds a Masters of Business Administration Degree (Honours) and Advanced Graduate Diploma in Management (Honours). He has served as Director of Business Services with Alberta Justice since 2007 and is currently enrolled in the Arbitration Program with the Alberta Arbitration and Mediation Society. Read the Government of Alberta news release.

2. Recent tribunal decisions: The Commission recently released the following tribunal decisions:

  • Brent Bish on behalf of Ian Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corporation, Cardinal River Operations (June 15, 2012; The Honourable Paul Chrumka, QC, Tribunal Chair)
  • Sarah Downes v. On Side Restoration Services Ltd. (Preliminary matters decision; May 9, 2012; Shirley Heafey, Tribunal Chair)
  • David Candler v. Capital Health (April 27, 2012; The Honourable Paul Chrumka, QC, Tribunal Chair)
  • Joan Cowling v. Alberta Employment and Immigration (Preliminary matters decision; April 13, 2012; Shirley Heafey, Tribunal Chair)
  • Thomas Schulz v. Lethbridge Industries Limited (March 7, 2012; William D. McFetridge, QC, Tribunal Chair)

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

3. Summary of important court decisions related to human rights: 
British Columbia (Workers' Compensation Board) v. British Columbia v. Figliola 2011 SCC 52 (
Supreme Court of Canada, October 27, 2011)
Supreme Court of Canada applies finality principles in deciding that British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal acted unreasonably in agreeing to hear human rights complaints which had, in essence, been previously heard and decided by a Workers' Compensation Review Officer.  

A Workers' Compensation Board Review Officer decided that a chronic pain policy was not discriminatory. Complaints were then filed with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal with respect to the same issue. The Tribunal can proceed, pursuant to their legislation, if the matter was not "appropriately" dealt with in the other forum. The Tribunal's decision was also, through legislation, subject to a standard of patent unreasonableness defined in certain high threshold ways, for example, bad faith. 

The Supreme Court found that the Tribunal's decision to hear the complaint was unreasonable but provided two different analyses. The majority of the Court indicated that finality principles should be applied quite strictly: whether the previous decision maker had concurrent authority to decide the matter; whether the issue was essentially the same; and whether in the earlier proceeding the parties (or their privies) had an opportunity to know and meet the case. A minority of the Court approved of a more flexible approach in the administrative and human rights context, balancing finality with fairness and placing more emphasis on the discretion of the decision maker. 

Halifax (Regional Municipality) v. Nova Scotia (Human Rights Commission) 2012 SCC 10 (Supreme Court of Canada, March 16, 2012)
Supreme Court of Canada refuses to quash referral of human rights complaint to board of inquiry stating judicial intervention rarely justified at this preliminary stage of Commission's work

The Supreme Court of Canada held that the decision of the Nova Scotia Commission to refer a matter to a human rights hearing is a discretionary preliminary decision that considers whether an inquiry is warranted in all the circumstances. Complaints were filed with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission alleging that funding arrangements for schools discriminated on the basis of Acadian ethnic origin. Shortly after the investigation of the complaints, the Commission appointed a board of inquiry. 

Meanwhile, in response to a Charter challenge to the funding arrangements, a statutory amendment that provided for supplementary funding was passed. Halifax Regional Municipality then applied for judicial review of the Commission's referral to the board of inquiry.  In refusing to quash the referral decision, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the decision was subject to a standard of review of reasonableness and courts should "exercise great restraint in intervening at this early stage of the process." Courts should only intervene when "there is no reasonable basis in the law or evidence to support" such a decision. 

4. Tribunal Dispute Resolution (TDR): An important part of the work of the Commission, on the Tribunal side, involves offering mediation to parties before a hearing in a process known as Tribunal Dispute Resolution (TDR). This initiative was first introduced by Blair Mason, QC, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, in 2010-11. In the past few months, Geeta Bharadia, QC, Full-time Member of the Commission, has led the further development of this program. The Commission has been working on the streamlining of the process as well as improving access to information on TDR, particularly for self-represented parties.

TDR allows parties who are interested in mediation to meet with a Member of the Commission to try to settle the complaint before it proceeds to a hearing. The benefit of TDR is that a member of the Commission, who hears and makes decisions on human rights complaints, is appointed by the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals as a neutral mediator to help parties settle the matter. They are referred to as a TDR Commissioner. The TDR Commissioner may also provide a non-binding evaluation of the case. TDR is confidential, voluntary and free of charge. TDR has proven to be a successful strategy to resolve complaints and enables the parties to explore a broad range of solutions rather than proceed to adjudication at a hearing. Approximately 85 per cent of the parties who attend TDR fully settle their complaint without the significant time and financial and other costs of a hearing. For more information on TDR, visit the Tribunal Dispute Resolution section on the Commission website or call Cathy Finlayson, Registrar, at 780-427-2951.

5. Human Rights in the Workplace fall workshops: Four Human Rights in the Workplace public workshops are scheduled for fall 2012. The full-day workshops, intended for managers, supervisors, team leaders, human resource professionals, union leaders, and small business owners, will provide participants with:

an overview of Alberta's human rights legislation,
  • information from the workshop module Duty to accommodate and
  • an understanding of harassment in the workplace and strategies to prevent such harassment.
  • The full-day workshops will also provide participants with an understanding of respectful and inclusive workplaces and strategies to create such a workplace.

    See the fall public workshop schedule for details.

    6. Commission congratulates award recipients:

    • The Team Award of Excellence: The Commission congratulates Commission staff who were members of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) Conference Planning Team on being awarded the Team Award of Excellence by Alberta Justice and Solicitor General. The Team Award of Excellence, which will be awarded at a ceremony hosted by Alberta Justice and Solicitor General on June 22, recognizes groups of employees who have achieved service excellence with internal or external clients through teamwork. The CASHRA Conference Planning Team was led by Cassie Palamar, the Commission's Director of Education and Engagement, and included Commission staff as well as staff from the Ministry of Culture who organized and delivered the CASHRA national conference in June 2011. Through the team's efforts, the CASHRA 2011 conference set a new attendance record, received a very high satisfaction rating from participants responding to the post-conference survey, and implemented a number of initiatives that will serve as legacies for future CASHRA conferences. 

    Dr. John Haynes Memorial Award: The Commission congratulates Geeta Bharadia, QC, Full-time Member of the Commission, on being named by Alberta Family Mediation Society as this year's recipient of the Dr. John Haynes Memorial Award. The late Dr. John Haynes was a pioneer in the field of family mediation and world renowned as a mediator and trainer. This award was presented by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Alberta, Ray Bodnarek, QC to Ms. Bharadia for her outstanding contribution to the field of family mediation in Alberta. A part of Ms. Bharadia's current work as Full-time Member of the Commission involves mediation in the Commission's Tribunal Dispute Resolution (TDR) process.

    7. Commission roundtable presentation at the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals (CCAT) Conference: Blair Mason, QC, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, together with Janice Ashcroft, Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Geeta Bharadia, QC, Full-time Member of the Commission, and Part-time Members of the Commission Catherine Christopher, QC, Shirley Heafey, Sharon Lindgren-Hewlett and Melissa Luhtanen presented "Current Human Rights Issues in Canada" at the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals (CCAT) conference on May 13, 2012. Topics covered included leading edge legal topics of mandatory retirement, competing rights, mental disabilities and educational services, multiple proceedings, remedies and tribunal dispute resolution. The conference was attended by judges, adjudicators, tribunal members and lawyers from across Canada. You can read more about the CCAT conference.

    8. The Commission attended recent events:

    • Law Day: The Commission participated in Law Day events in Calgary and Edmonton on April 21, 2012 and Medicine Hat on April 28, 2012 by hosting information booths. Participants attending the Law Day events engaged with Commission representatives to learn more about human rights and the programs and services offered by the Commission. You can view photos of the events. The various events for Law Day are organized by the  Canadian Bar Association, in cooperation and with funding from the Alberta Law Foundation and the Law Society of Alberta.

    •  Hate Crimes Awareness Day: The third annual Hate Crimes Awareness Day took place on April 24, 2012 during National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, April 23 to 27, 2012. Blair Mason, QC, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, and Moosa Jiwaji, Member of the Commission, spoke at the Calgary and Edmonton events, respectively, marking the day. Hate Crimes Awareness Day was organized by the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee (AHCC) to encourage communities, governments and police to unite to send the message that hate crimes will not be tolerated. This year's theme was "Supporting Victims of Hate/Bias Crime and Activities."

      The AHCC's latest resource, Beyond Hate: A Resource Toolkit for Building a Community Response Plan to Counter Hatewas released at both events.  Workshops and events were also hosted in Lethbridge, Brooks, Red Deer and Fort McMurray.  The Commission has been a member of the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee since its establishment in 2002. Read more about Hate Crime Awareness Day.

    • Human Resources Institute of Alberta Annual Conference: The Alberta Human Rights Commission hosted an information booth at the Human Resources Institute of Alberta's Annual Conference held on April 24 and 25, 2012 in Calgary. The conference attracted over 800 employers and human resources professionals. Many delegates engaged with Commission staff at the booth to learn about the Commission's programs and services and about their rights and responsibilities related to human rights. 

    • International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination event: On March 21, 2012, the Commission partnered with the Human Rights Domain of the Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative, Aboriginal elders and community leaders to host the Seeking Peace: Healing Hurts event. During this event, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community members became more aware of the issues pertaining to missing Aboriginal people in Canada, including murdered and missing women, children of the residential school era, and men, missing both physically and figuratively. The pairing of the sessions with ceremony allowed a symbolic gesture towards healing for the community. Ms. Geeta Bharadia, QC, Full-time Member of the Commission, was one of the guest speakers. She spoke on the significance of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

    You can read more about these events as well as past events attended by the Commission. 

    9. Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CMARD) update: Lethbridge CMARD hosted a comprehensive diversity conference, Discover Diversity Conference: Educate, Celebrate, and Respond for a "Welcoming and Inclusive Lethbridge" on February 2 and 3, 2012.  The conference highlighted the diversity of strategies being employed by a progressive city and the surrounding rural community. Blair Mason, QC, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, presented a keynote address, and Cam Stewart from the Commission's Education and Engagement Unit facilitated one session and was also a keynote speaker. Read about the workshop sessions and keynote speeches in the Conference Proceedings.

    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.


    1. Significant dates:

    June 20 is World Refugee Day: World Refugee Day is an opportunity to advocate for the rights of refugees and immigrants. Learn more about the day, read about planned events in Canada, and watch the video message for those celebrating World Refugee Day prepared by UNCHR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie.

    June 21 to July 1 is Celebrate Canada:  This 11-day celebration is an opportunity to celebrate Canada and to discover and appreciate the wealth and diversity of Canadian society. Celebrate Canada includes National Aboriginal Day, Saint-Jean Baptiste Day, Canadian Multiculturalism Day and Canada Day.

     provides Canadians with an opportunity to celebrate the diverse and rich cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and to honour their place in Canadian society.

  • June 24 is Saint-Jean Baptiste Day: French Canadians across Canada will express their cultural pride and honour their rich heritage on Saint-Jean Baptiste Day.

  • June 27 is Canadian Multiculturalism Day: On Canadian Multiculturalism Day, Canadians will celebrate our country's rich cultural mosaic and recognize the valuable role Albertans from all backgrounds play in helping to build vibrant and prosperous communities that benefit everyone. On November 13, 2002, the Government of Canada, by Royal Proclamation, designated June 27 of each year as Canadian Multiculturalism Day. Learn more about Government of Alberta programs and services that support diversity and human rights in the province.
  • Events will take place across the province to mark Celebrate Canada. Visit the Canadian Heritage website for ideas and tips on organizing an event in recognition of significant days taking place during Celebrate Canada.

    August 6 is Alberta Heritage Day: Celebrated annually, Alberta Heritage Day recognizes and celebrates the province's cultural heritage. This special day has been recognized since 1974, when legislation was passed to dedicate the first Monday of August as Alberta Heritage Day.

    September 21 is International Day of Peace: United Nations member countries are calling for worldwide observance of a 24-hour ceasefire and a day of peace and non-violence on September 21. Read more

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

    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 or call 403-297-8407. 

    Alberta news

    1. Government toughens rules to protect job seekers:
    The Alberta government is strengthening laws to better protect workers who use employment agencies to find work. Amendments to the Employment Agency Business Licensing Regulation will provide additional protections making it illegal for businesses to: mislead temporary foreign workers about their rights or their chance of becoming a Canadian citizen; pressure workers to lie to Canadian officials; intimidate or threaten individuals seeking work; or require workers to provide a performance bond. Read the news release. 


    New online program to address bias and hate in media: MediaSmarts launched a new program, Diversity and Media Toolbox, to address bias and hate in the media. From the website: "The Diversity and Media Toolbox is a comprehensive suite of resources for teachers, students, law enforcement representatives and the general public, that explores issues relating to stereotyping, bias and hate in mainstream media and on the Internet."

    2. Teacher resources to support sexual orientation and gender identity issues:

    The Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities released a guide called Safe and Caring Schools for Two Spirit Youth: A guide for teachers and students. Two Spirit students are members of both a sexual and visible minority and are often targeted and maltreated in society. From the guide: "... this resource hopes to provide a brief but informative window into the challenges that many Two Spirit students face within educational settings as well as contribute practical suggestions that teachers can use to begin addressing these multilayered issues."

    3. Report on addressing barriers to employment for people with episodic disabilities: The Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation (CWGHR) released the report Evolving the Workplace: Identifying Opportunities to Support People with Episodic Disabilities in Employment. HIV is often referred to as an episodic disability where periods of good health may be interrupted by unpredictable periods of illness or disability. From the report's Executive Summary: "In order to improve the work outcomes for people living with episodic disabilities, the Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation (CWGHR) funded by Scotiabank undertook research to better understand the complex barriers to employment participation and the types of initiatives that might work to address these barriers." Read the full report.


    AOL, MSN, Hotmail, Yahoo!, and other e-mail users who have enabled SPAM filtering: Please add to your address book and/or "safe list" as an acceptable sender. This will ensure that Alberta Human Rights Information Service arrives in your inbox safely and doesn't get filtered into your bulk/spam/junk folder. Thank you.

    Subscribe to Alberta Human Rights Information Service

    Stop your subscription to Alberta Human Rights Information Service

    Back issues of Alberta Human Rights Information Service


    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.