Alberta Human Rights Information Service June 25, 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


1. The Commission recently released the following tribunal decisions:

  • Dallas Broich v. Alstom Power Canada Inc. (May 17, 2013, Geeta Bharadia, QC, Tribunal Chair)
  • Dylan Eheler v. L.L. Enterprises Ltd. (March 22, 2013; Brenda Scragg, 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 

Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local 30 v. Irving Pulp & Paper Ltd. 2013 SCC 34 (Supreme Court of Canada, June 14, 2013)
Supreme Court of Canada rules that random alcohol testing  unilaterally imposed by the employer in a unionized workplace is not reasonable

Irving Oil introduced mandatory random alcohol testing wherein 10 per cent of employees in safety-sensitive positions would be randomly selected for breathalyzer testing. Positive tests for alcohol use could result in dismissal or disciplinary action. The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) noted the consistent arbitral jurisprudence that any unilateral exercise of management rights even in safety-sensitive workplaces, engages a "balancing of interests" approach. The SCC emphasized the serious impact of random testing on the privacy and dignity of employees, and that previous arbitration decisions have held that testing can occur in safety-sensitive workplaces only in limited circumstances. The SCC further noted that dangerous workplaces have never been an "automatic justification" for unilateral random testing with disciplinary consequences. In the workplace in question, alcohol-related incidents over a 15-year period did not show a problem with workplace alcohol use. Weighed against the "severe" impact on the privacy rights of employees, the SCC held that safety concerns did not justify mandatory random testing.

This case was decided in the context of management rights in a collective agreement, and does not address drug and alcohol testing from a human rights or disability perspective. However, the SCC's comments with respect to the importance of privacy rights, the refusal to automatically accept the justification of the safety-sensitive workplace, and the need to balance interests, may have implications in the human rights field.


   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 us an opportunity to reflect upon the many accomplishments that have been made in human rights in our province, assess our current challenges and opportunities, and recommit to the work ahead that will advance our goal of creating a province that fosters equality and reduces discrimination.

2. Commission clarifies position on breastfeeding in retail establishments: The Commission has clarified its position on breastfeeding in retail establishments, based on current case law. Human rights tribunals and courts have determined that breastfeeding is an integral part of being a mother. As a result, retailers must allow women who need to breastfeed their children in a public area the opportunity to do so. Retailers should not ask the mother to cover up or move to a different location. While some retailers may wish to provide a private space for breastfeeding, there is no obligation to provide such space, nor is there an obligation for mothers to use such space.

Retail establishments include, but are not limited to, department stores, grocery stores, "big box" stores, convenience stores, corporate chain stores, clothing stores, pharmacies, dry cleaners, photographers, automobile dealerships, repair shops and service stations.

You can read more about human rights in providing goods, services, accommodation or facilities on the Commission website.

3. The Commission attended recent events:    

  • Forum: Accommodating mental and physical disabilities in the workplace: The Commission, in partnership with the Human Resources Institute of Alberta, hosted a forum, "Accommodating Mental and Physical Disabilities in the Workplace," on June 12, 2013 in Calgary. The breakfast forum attracted 55 participants from various employer groups in Calgary. The forum was targeted towards managers of organizations to provide them with information on accommodating employees with disabilities in a timely manner. Six organizations set up information tables at the forum.

    The Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, welcomed the participants and encouraged active engagement in discussing this complex topic. Janice Ashcroft, Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, focused on employers' responsibilities under the Alberta Human Rights Act in accommodating employees with mental and physical disabilities and cited human rights tribunal and court decisions. The participants were provided with case studies and worked through various workplace accommodation scenarios. This was followed by a panel presentation with representatives from the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Commission, who provided brief presentations on accommodation and responded to audience questions regarding accommodations. The forum concluded with an employee who has been blind since birth speaking about his own experiences of being accommodated. He asked employers to have discussions with employees who have disabilities regarding how they would complete the tasks of their position rather than making assumptions that they would not be able to complete the tasks.

  • CASHRA Conference: Don Smallwood, Director, Alberta Human Rights Commission, and Cassie Palamar, Director of Education and Engagement for the Commission attended the 2013 annual conference of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Association (CASHRA) in Halifax, Nova Scotia from May 29 to 31, 2013. CASHRA is the national association of Canada's statutory agencies charged with administering federal, provincial and territorial human rights legislation. Its goals are to foster collaboration among its members and to serve as a national voice on human rights issues of common concern. The 2013 conference theme was "Renewing the Vision." Mr. Smallwood represented the Commission at the Annual General Meeting of CASHRA, at which David Langtry, Acting Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission, was elected Chair of CASHRA. Ms. Palamar spoke at the conference on a panel "Bringing Human Rights to the Public: Education Campaigns that Work."

  • Rights Respecting Schools Plaque Presentation: The Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, congratulated, and presented a plaque to, the students at Evansdale Elementary School in Edmonton on April 25, 2013 for being a leader in the province in becoming the first school in Alberta to take the steps to become a Rights Respecting School. The UNICEF Canada's Rights Respecting Schools Initiative uses the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to serve as the basis for the school's culture to promote active citizenship and inclusive learning. Mr. Mason spoke to the students about human rights in the students' lives and the important role the students play in building a respectful and inclusive environment in their school and community. 

  • Hate Crime Awareness Day: The Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, spoke at a Hate Crime Awareness Day event held at the Calgary Public Library on April 24, 2013. Hate Crime 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 "We all have a role." Mr. Mason spoke to the importance of partnerships and collaborative efforts in addressing prejudice and hate in our communities and praised the work and successes of community and other organizations in Alberta. He also spoke to this year's theme, outlining the role that governments, businesses and citizens play in countering hate and bias incidents and crimes. Deputy Mayor Diane Colley-Urquhart offered opening remarks and proclaimed April 24, 2013 as Hate Crime Awareness Day. Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson also offered remarks.

    Events were also hosted in Edmonton, Lethbridge and Brooks. The Commission has been a member of the AHCC since its establishment in 2002.

The Honourable Blair Mason, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, speaking at the Hate Crime Awareness Day event.

Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson speaking at the Hate Crime Awareness Day event.     

Human Resources Institute of Alberta Annual Conference: The Commission hosted an information booth at the Human Resources Institute of Alberta's Annual Conference held on April 17 and 18, 2013 in Edmonton. Conference attendees included employers and human resources professionals, many of whom engaged with Commission staff to learn about the Commission's programs and services and about their rights and responsibilities related to human rights.

  • Law Day: The Commission participated in Law Day events in Edmonton, Wetaskiwin, Red Deer and Calgary on April 13, 2013 by hosting information booths. Participants attending the Law Day events engaged with Commission representatives to learn more about diversity, human rights and the programs and services offered by the Commission. Throughout the month of April, The Canadian Bar Association, in cooperation with, and with funding from, the Alberta Law Foundation and the Law Society of Alberta, hosted events across the province, encouraging Albertans to experience our legal system and learn more about how it works in Alberta.

  • Human rights education initiatives for children and youth: On March 13, 2013, the Commission convened a meeting of several nonprofit organizations that are providing human rights education initiatives for children and youth provincially, which were funded by the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund. Some of the nonprofit organizations in attendance at the meeting, which took place in Calgary, included the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights and the Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities. Participants determined that there is a need to take a collaborative approach to human rights education for children and youth and agreed that the Commission will convene further discussions, leading a small working group to build an agenda for further work in this area.

  • Intensive Trial Advocacy Course: Janice Ashcroft, Senior Legal Counsel, Alberta Human Rights Commission, took part as a mock tribunal member in the Intensive Trial Advocacy Course sponsored by the Legal Education Society of Alberta on June 15, 2013. The tribunal hears evidence in an adjudicative setting and observes counsel appearing before it with a view to critiquing counsel's performance at the end of the hearing. The course is designed to allow lawyers to hone their advocacy skills and benefit from feedback received from more experienced administrative law lawyers and judges.   
  • 4. 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.
    When developing initiatives, organizations are encouraged to work with one of the Commission's Education and Engagement consultants to develop projects that are viable and maximize the resources available. Please contact a consultant to discuss Fund priorities and your ideas for projects before applying for financial assistance. The next deadline for Letters of Intent is October 1, 2013.

    Recently completed projects:

    • Be the Change project: Twenty schools in Alberta have addressed racial and discrimination barriers to create more diversity-sensitive environments for students through the Be the Change project. Connections, with the support of the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fundworked collaboratively with high school students and teachers to address equality issues including bullying, discrimination, stereotyping and racism. Over 260 students learned to identify racism and harassment and how to respond appropriately. Each student then established a project to share the information with youth. Over 15,000 students and community members were exposed to positive messaging about diversity and human rights curriculum.

      Some of the students translated the information into videos for youth, and you can view these videos. For more information about this project, please contact

    • Barrier-free campaign: Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD) completed a research project called Barrier-free Health and Medical Services in Alberta . Through the project, it was discovered that many Albertans with disabilities find it challenging to access basic health and medical services.

      As a result of the project, ACCD recently launched an awareness campaign about the issues, challenges and barriers that people with disabilities experience when accessing health and medical services in Alberta. The Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund provided funding for the research project and campaign. You can read about the campaign, access the campaign brochure, and view a Youtube video.
    • 5. Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD) update:

      The City of Red Deer has recently joined CCMARD, bringing the number of Alberta municipalities involved in the Coalition to fourteen. Read the List of Signatory Municipalities who have joined the Coalition

    • The Canadian Commission for UNESCO prepared a list of activities held across Canada that were organized by CCMARD members and partners to celebrate March 21: The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. You can read the list of activities.  
    • PLEASE NOTE: In the following sections of the newsletter, we publish news and information from 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 of other organizations presented 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 was World Refugee Day: World Refugee Day is an opportunity to advocate for the rights of refugees and immigrants. World Refugee Day 2013 focused on the impact of war on families using the theme "1 family torn apart by war is too many." Visit the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees website for more information.

      June 21 to July 1 is Celebrate Canada:  This 11-day celebration is an opportunity to celebrate Canada and discover and appreciate the strength and diversity of Canadian society. Events will take place across the province to mark these special days. Visit the Canadian Heritage website for ideas and tips on organizing an event in recognition of significant days taking place during Celebrate Canada.

      August 5 is Alberta Heritage Day: Alberta Heritage Day recognizes and celebrates Alberta's diverse cultural heritage. Legislation was passed in 1974 to dedicate the first Monday of August as Alberta Heritage Day. Take part in one of the Heritage Day events held around the province.

      August 9 is International Day of the World's Indigenous People:
      First proclaimed in 1994, International Day of the World's Indigenous People marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. 2005-2014 is the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People and is focused on partnerships for action and dignity.

      September 21 is International Day of Peace: United Nations member countries call for worldwide observance of a 24-hour ceasefire and a day of peace and non-violence on Peace Day. This day encourages citizens to practice acts of peace.

      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 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 web page.

      Alberta news

      1. Hate crimes community training: The Alberta Hate Crimes Committee (AHCC) is offering free community workshops starting at the end of October 2013. From the AHCC website: The intent of the workshops is to "build a strong understanding of hate crime, its impacts on our communities, and legislation surrounding hate crimes. The workshops will also provide tools and tips on community-based strategies for monitoring, reporting and responding to hate, hate crime and victims of hate incidents and crime." Read more about the workshops. The Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund provided funding for the workshops.

      Canadian news

      Equality rights of Aboriginal people: The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) recently issued the report Report on Equality Rights of Aboriginal People. From the CHRC news release: The report "compares Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people across a spectrum of indicators, including education, employment, economic well-being, health and housing. These comparisons confirm the persistence of barriers to equality of opportunity faced by Aboriginal people."

      2. Consumer racial profiling report: The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission released a report on consumer racial profiling in that province. From the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission website: "This report is the first report in Canada to address the issue of the experiences of customers and how they are treated by staff in retail and service establishments in Nova Scotia." You can read the summary and the full report.

      3. Aboriginals experience racial discrimination: Two research papers discuss the link between racial discrimination, mental distress and addictions among Aboriginal Canadians:

      Racial Discrimination Experienced by Aboriginal University Students in Canada  by Cheryl L. Currie et al.

      4. Toolkit to assist Aboriginals resolving human rights disputes: The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) offers a resource Toolkit for Developing Community-based Dispute Resolution Processes in First Nations Communities for Aboriginals resolving human rights disputes. From the CHRC website: The toolkit "is a guide for First Nations leaders, managers and administrators on how to develop their own processes for resolving human rights disputes. It covers a wide range of topics, including community engagement, policy development, financing, and implementation." You can read the CHRC news release.   

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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.