Alberta Human Rights Information Service June 20, 2016

 

In this issue:

National Aboriginal Day

Human rights case law: Court and tribunal decisions

Commission news
On June 21st, we commemorate National Aboriginal Day
This day is an opportunity for Canadians to celebrate indigenous culture and First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. It provides an opportunity for all Albertans to experience indigenous culture and learn more about the history of indigenous peoples. Canada's indigenous peoples have a long history.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report, released December 15, 2016, allows us to more deeply and profoundly understand the lived experience of indigenous Albertans with Indian Residential Schools and the critical need for reconciliation.
"The Alberta Human Rights Commission has committed to using the recommendations of the TRC Final Report to inform our work and to ongoing and continued learning to increase our knowledge and understanding of the issues facing Alberta's indigenous peoples," says Mr. Robert Philp, Queen's Counsel, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission.
"For example, members of executive leadership team have participated in the Calgary Police Service's Aboriginal Justice Camp, which was a transformative in-depth cultural experience that introduced us to indigenous peoples' history and traditional values, as well as to the current issues facing Alberta's indigenous peoples and communities.
In addition, our entire staff participated in indigenous culture training where Reg Crowshoe and others shared their traditional ceremonies and teachings about Alberta's history, Indian Residential Schools, the importance of ethical space, intergenerational trauma and cultural confusion, and how to move forward with reconciliation.
Each of us, individually and collectively as a society, have the opportunity to move forward in a meaningful and intentional way from a very dark past towards recovery, reconciliation and full inclusion." 
You can view Mr. Philp's video message.

The diversity in our communities brings a richness of skills, perspectives, languages and cultures to Alberta. In recognition of National Aboriginal Day, Albertans are encouraged to participate in the many events that are planned across the province in celebration of this important day. For more information about #NADCanada and events taking place in communities throughout Alberta, visit the following websites:
1. Important court decisions related to human rights:

Condominium Corporation No 052 0580 v. Alberta (Human Rights Commission) 2016 ABQB 183 (Alberta Court of Queen's Bench; March 24, 2016)
Court confirms Alberta Human Rights Act applies to condominium boards

A condominium corporation applied to the Court of Queen's Bench to prohibit the Alberta Human Rights Commission from proceeding with a human rights complaint, arguing that condominium corporations did not fall under the authority of the Alberta Human Rights Act. The Court dismissed the application emphasizing that human rights legislation is to be interpreted broadly and purposively, and the condominium corporation can be said to provide services customarily available to the "public,"  with the "public" being the owners of the condominiums. Accordingly, the actions of condominium corporations fell under the authority of Alberta's human rights legislation.  
Buterman v. Board of Trustees of the Greater St. Albert Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 734, 2016 ABQB 159 (Alberta Court of Queen's Bench; March 17, 2016)
Court upholds decision by Alberta Human Rights Tribunal that a binding and enforceable settlement agreement was entered into by the parties 

This  case involved an appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench from two Tribunal decisions which, when read together, held that a valid and enforceable settlement agreement existed between the complainant and the respondent regarding the complainant's human rights complaint. As such, the Tribunal found  it did not have authority to proceed to hear the substantive human rights complaint. The Court of Queen's Bench confirmed that  the decision of the majority of the Tribunal that there was a valid offer and acceptance was reasonable. The Court stated that a valid offer was communicated to the complainant by St. Albert Roman Catholic Separate School District (St. Albert Catholic), counsel for  the complainant communicated that he was "willing to accept the proposal put forward by St. Albert Catholic Separate School on October 2, 2009" and counsel for St. Albert Catholic confirmed that the offer remained open continuously. The Court stated that because the complainant indicated he was willing to accept "the proposal" and not just the money, and did not indicate that there are other terms to be determined, the complainant had accepted the offer. The Court further held that the settlement agreement had not been repudiated or breached and had crystalized even though the wording and extent of the confidentiality clause was still open for negotiation. The Court indicated that although the settlement document had yet to be concluded, the more draconian terms should have been negotiated out of the documentation or were, in any event, unenforceable. This decision has been further appealed to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of Canada agrees to hear Alberta case involving drug dependency and human rights

The Supreme Court of Canada recently agreed to hear an appeal from the Alberta Court of Appeal in the case of Stewart v Elk Valley Coal Corporation, 2015 ABCA 225. While the Supreme Court of Canada is asked to hear appeals from across the country, the Court will only grant leave in certain circumstances  such as when the case presents an issue of national importance.

Brent Bish filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission on behalf of Mr. Stewart alleging discrimination on the ground of physical disability. Mr. Stewart was involved in a minor workplace collision, and after testing positive for cocaine, was fired. The Tribunal held that there was no prima facie discrimination as Mr. Stewart had the capacity to make choices, notwithstanding his drug dependency, and accordingly the adverse treatment came about because of non-adherence to the drug testing policy and not because of discrimination. Further, the Tribunal held that the policy, by allowing individuals to come forward without adverse consequences, accommodated Mr. Stewart to the point of undue hardship. Brent Bish appealed the tribunal  decision to the Court of Queen's Bench, where the decision was upheld. Brent Bish then appealed the Court of Queen's Bench decision to the Court of Appeal. A majority of the Court of Appeal held that the Tribunal had correctly applied the legal tests of prima facie discrimination and that "it could not say that the Tribunal reached an unreasonable conclusion" on the issue of accommodation.

Mouvement Iaique Quebecois v. Saguenay (City) (Supreme Court of Canada; April 15, 2015)
Christian prayer before council meeting breaches state's duty of religious neutrality
In Mouvement Iaique Quebecois v. Saguenay (City), the Supreme Court of Canada directed that the state must not interfere in religious beliefs, which includes not showing a preference for any one particular religion. The Supreme Court in Saguenay held that a municipal council cannot perform a Christian prayer before each public meeting because that would breach the state's duty of religious neutrality and would be discriminatory toward members of the public who adhere to other religions and toward those who do not hold any religious beliefs.

2. The Commission recently released the following tribunal decisions:
  • Hans Goossen v. Summit Solar Drywall Contractors Inc. (Decision Regarding Quantification of Lost Wages; May 26, 2016; Sharon Lindgren-Hewlett, Tribunal Chair)
  • Jennifer Sylvan v. A.B.W. Management Ltd. o/a South Calgary Oral and Maxilliofacial Surgery (SCOMS) (April 20, 2016, D. Jean Munn, Q.C., Tribunal Chair)
  • Hoang Nguyen v. Grant MacEwan University (Preliminary Matters Decision; April 1, 2016; Joanne Archibald, Tribunal Chair)
  • Joanne Goossen v. Summit Solar Drywall Contractors Inc. and Hans Goossen v. Summit Solar Drywall Contractors Inc. (March 8, 2016; Sharon Lindgren-Hewlett, Tribunal Chair)
  • Donna Jones v. Peace Wapiti School Division No. 76 and Edward Buchan v. Peace Wapiti School Division No. 76 (Preliminary Matters Decision; March 3, 2016; Joanne Archibald, Tribunal Chair)
  • Ruben Dario Echavarria v. The Chief of Police of the Edmonton Police Service, Chris Tagg, Robin Piuette and Ruben Dario Echavarria (on behalf of Anderson Esteban Echavarria Sanchez) v. The Chief of Police of the Edmonton Police Service and Ruben Dario Echavarria (on behalf of Marta Cecilia Sanchez) v. The Chief of Police of the Edmonton Police Service (February 26, 2016; Joanne Archibald, Tribunal Chair)
  • Robyn Asselin v. Global Thermoelectric Inc. (February 18, 2016; William D. McFetridge, Q.C., Tribunal Chair)
These tribunal decisions can be accessed free of charge through the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website.
COMMISSION NEWS
1. Recorded Webinars for Free Viewing: The Alberta Human Rights Commission offered a three-part webinar series on Understanding and Preventing Harassment in the Workplace. The free webcasts are accessible from any location and can be viewed at a time that is convenient for the viewer:
  1. Developing and Implementing an Effective Harassment Prevention Policy: outlines the need for developing a harassment prevention policy, the key elements of a policy, and how to develop and implement a policy.
  2. Roles and Responsibilities of Organizations: provides an understanding of harassment, the rights and responsibilities of employers in preventing harassment, and how best to respond to and manage harassment in the workplace.
  3. I am Being Harassed or Witnessing Harassment. What Can I Do?: focuses on recognizing harassment and knowing what to do when an employee is being harassed or witnesses harassment in the workplace.
For more information and to access the webinar series, visit the Commission's e-learning page.

2. Commission releases new information sheet: Religious Beliefs
The Commission has developed a new information sheet to provide Albertans with information on religious beliefs as a protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act. Read the Religious Beliefs information sheet.

3. The Commission attended recent events:
  • Panel presentation at national conference: On May 18, 2016, Janice Ashcroft, Q.C., Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, presented as part of a panel with Derek Cranna, Partner, Field Law, and Angela Jackson, Legal Services, University of Calgary, at a national conference in Calgary sponsored by the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education. The panel presentation topic was Human Rights and the Law:  Implications for Post-Secondary Institutions. Participants enjoyed an engaging discussion tackling challenging issues such as religious accommodation during practicums and ongoing accommodation of students with disabilities in professional programs. 

  • Roundtable on human rights issues: On May 18, 2016, the Commission partnered with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), the City of Calgary and Bow Valley College to host a roundtable that connected individuals in conversation about inclusion, diversity and discrimination. Speakers and respondents at The Urban Agenda: Calgary, considered the success of Calgary as a hub of diversity and model of inclusion, while exploring unresolved issues and continuing challenges. Cassie Palamar, Director, Education and Engagement, Alberta Human Rights Commission, provided closing remarks. The event was the CRRF's fifth roundtable in a six-city series, which also includes Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg and Halifax.

  • Canadian Bar Association panel presentation: On May 12, 2016, Janice Ashcroft, Q.C., Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, spoke as part of a panel at a luncheon of the Administrative Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association. The session, Administrative Law: Hot Topics, also included presentations from counsel for the National Energy Board, the Alberta Securities Commission and the Alberta Utilities Commission. 
     
4. Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund:


The Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund supports community projects that foster equality and reduce discrimination.
Human Rights Project grants: Non-profit organizations and public institutions are eligible to apply for these grants. This is an outcome-based grant that seeks to address issues of inequality or discrimination. The next deadline for this grant is October 1, 2016. You can read more about the Human Rights Project grants.

Experience Human Rights: Registered non-profit organizations that are planning a one- or two-day human rights initiative may be eligible to receive up to $1,000 to support projects that build greater involvement in human rights or raise awareness of the issue. The deadline for this grant is October 1, 2016. You can read more about Experience Human Rights.

Community Inclusion Grants: The Community Inclusion Grant helps municipalities build inclusive communities and advance their strategies associated with the principles of Welcoming and Inclusive Communities (WIC) or as a signatory to the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD). The deadline for this grant is September 15, 2016. You can read more about the Community Inclusion Grants.
A recently completed project supported by the Fund:
  • The Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD) recently completed a project with the purpose of identifying the needs of people with disabilities to receive equitable dental, eye care and pharmacy services. The project included a literature review, an analysis of existing policy, project-specific surveys, site visits and focus groups with those providing and using dental, eye care and pharmacy services. The review focused on the institutional and organizational barriers that exclude Albertans with disabilities from accessing or fully participating in these health benefits. ACCD is working with regulatory bodies to address gaps and to build awareness and capacity to better serve people with disabilities. The report, Accessible Dental, Eye Care and Pharmacy Services in Alberta, explores the status of the accessibility of these health services and makes recommendations to improve the situation.
5. Canadian Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD) update: At the request of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Cassie Palamar, Director, Education and Engagement, Alberta Human Rights Commission, represented the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD) at a meeting of the regional and national Coalitions of the International Coalition of Cities against Racism (ICCAR) and the ICCAR Secretariat (UNESCO) in Bologna, Italy, in April 2016, to convene the first meeting of the ICCAR Global Steering Committee. The Bologna Declaration Towards Global Solidarity and Collaborative Action for Inclusive and Sustainable Urban Development reaffirms the commitment to strengthening collaborative action, advocacy and joint initiatives in order to identity and disseminate good practices. In response to the contemporary agendas and priorities of the Sustainable Development Goals and the emerging New Urban Agenda, the Coalition was renamed the "International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities," effective June 1, 2016. All costs for this trip were paid by meeting hosts/organizers, and no costs were incurred by the Alberta Human Rights Commission or the Government of Alberta.

The Commission was involved in founding CCMARD, has worked in partnership with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association on the Welcoming and Inclusive Communities initiative and CCMARD initiatives, and provides funding support through the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund to municipalities to support their initiatives to build inclusive communities. The 16 municipalities in Alberta that have made commitments to CCMARD are part of a network of 69 municipalities across Canada, and over 500 worldwide that have committed to take action against racism and discrimination and become more inclusive.
6. Member of the Commission honoured with Queen's Counsel appointment: Jean Munn, Member of the Commission, was honoured with Queen's Counsel appointment for her contribution to the legal profession and to her community. From the news release: "This year's Queen's Counsel appointees have demonstrated their commitment to enhancing our province's justice system," said Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. "In doing so, they have shown themselves to be deserving of this distinction as well as the respect of their peers within the legal community." Read the biographies of the members of the Commission.
NOTICE TO SUBSCRIBERS

Please add owner-albertahumanrightsinformationservice@gov.ab.ca 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

 

The Alberta Human Rights Commission is an independent commission of the Government of Alberta.

Due to confidentiality concerns, the Commission cannot reply to complaints of discrimination by email. Please contact the Commission by phone or regular mail if you have a specific complaint.

You can access information about making FOIP requests for records held by the Commission on our Contact us page.

The Commission will make publications available in accessible formats upon request for people with disabilities who do not read conventional print.