Alberta Human Rights Information Service October 25, 2016

In this issue:
Message from the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals
Human rights case law: Court and tribunal decisions
Commission news
Publications and Resources

Message from the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals Regarding Recent Discriminatory Incidents Across Alberta

Robert Philp, Queen's Counsel, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission
"There have been a number of incidents over the past few months that are cause for great concern.


"There have been two incidents in Edmonton where racial slurs uttered towards fellow Edmontonians were caught on camera.

"This past June a family from Alberta's Siksika First Nation were subjected to an assault and a verbal attack in Banff, which was also caught on camera.

This fall, Alberta's two largest post-secondary institutions-the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary-have been shrouded with xenophobic posters denouncing Sikhs and Muslims. This fall, Alberta's two largest post-secondary institutions-the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary-have been shrouded with xenophobic posters denouncing Sikhs and Muslims.

"And most recently, the Islamic Centre of South Calgary was vandalized, with a burnt copy of the Quran and a hateful letter left on the other side of a broken glass door.

"This is not the Alberta that I know. Nor is this the Alberta in which I want to live. The Alberta I know appreciates and values the diverse racial, religious and cultural composition of our communities.The Alberta I know respects the freedom to practice the religion of one's choice and live in communities that are free from racism and discrimination. And the Alberta I know embraces diversity and encourages diverse, inclusive and respectful communities. There is no room for hatred and intolerance in our province.

"In response to these incidents, I call on all Albertans to recommit to the principle that, in Alberta, all persons are equal in dignity, rights and responsibilities without regard to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation.

"I encourage all Albertans to live the values set out in the Alberta Human Rights Act and to promote the ideal that all Albertans have the right to live in a province that respects, values and celebrates our differences, which only serve to make us stronger."

HUMAN RIGHTS CASE LAW: COURT AND TRIBUNAL DECISIONS

1. Important court decision related to human rights:
Webber Academy Foundation v. Alberta (Human Rights Commission), 2016 ABQB 442 (Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta, August 10, 2016)
Court upholds Alberta Human Rights Tribunal decision that Webber Academy discriminated against two students on the ground of religious beliefs 
Two students at Webber Academy Foundation requested that they be allowed to pray on campus in accordance with their religious beliefs. The prayer was between five and 10 minutes and could be performed behind closed doors. The school refused to allow the students  to pray on campus, saying that the school was nondenominational. The school eventually advised the students that because the students  would not abide by school policy, they would not be accepted for enrollment the following year. The parents of the students made a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the ground of religious beliefs.
A three-person tribunal of the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal found that there was discrimination contrary to the Alberta Human Rights Act.
Webber Academy Foundation appealed the tribunal decision to the Court of Queen's Bench. The Court held that the Tribunal's findings were reasonable. The Court confirmed that the Tribunal had applied well-established principles of law and that for many years, "public and private schools have been required to adhere to human rights legislation in offering their educational services to the public." The Court  held that there was ample evidence to support the Tribunal's finding that there was prima facie discrimination. The students were denied meaningful access to Webber Academy (in all its facility and service offerings) based on their religious beliefs. Similarly, the Court held that there was ample evidence that the prima facie discrimination was not justified. Webber Academy had not accommodated the students' religious beliefs as required by law, and Webber's justification that it needed to ensure consistency with its nondenominational character failed for several reasons. Webber Academy already accepted students of many faiths and cultures who were accommodated and even published photographs of students with turbans and facial hair in its promotional materials. The Court stated, "For some reason, it drew the line at Sunni prayer rituals, conducted in private, in a place that was convenient to the school and the students from time to time . . . There was no demonstrated hardship, let alone undue hardship, motivating this policy."   
The Court also upheld the awards of damages to the students for distress, injury to dignity and loss of dignity. The Court emphasized that human rights legislation is remedial, not punitive, and damage awards should focus on how the discrimination affected the complainants. The damage awards were reasonable. Webber Academy Foundation is appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal.

2. The Commission recently released the following tribunal decisions:
  • Kathalin Horvath v. Rocky View School Division No. 41 (October 5, 2016; William D. McFetridge, Q.C., Tribunal Chair)
  • Miladinka Kovacevic v. City of Red Deer (Preliminary matters decision; September 12, 2016; Melissa Luhtanen, Tribunal Chair)
  • Hannah Pelchat v. Ramada Inn and Suites (Cold Lake), o/a Cold Lake Investments (Decision regarding quantification of lost wages; August 15, 2016; Kathryn Oviatt, Tribunal Chair)
  • Kieran Devine v. IS2 Staffing Services Inc. (August 25, 2016; Joanne Archibald, Tribunal Chair)
  • Martina Bruehl v. Oasis Medical Clinic Ltd. (o/a Oasis Medical Centre Family and Walk-In Clinics) and Dr. Adekunle Adegbulu, Dr. Eugene Magerman, Mr. Tony Andreopoulos (Preliminary matters decision; July 27, 2016; D. Jean Munn, Q.C., Tribunal Chair)
  • Diane White and Kerry White (on behalf of KW(minor son)) v. Lethbridge Soccer Association
    Diane White v. Lethbridge Soccer Association
    Diane White and Kerry White (on behalf of KW (minor son)) v. Lethbridge Soccer Association
    Diane White and Kerry White (on behalf of KW (minor daughter)) v. Lethbridge Soccer Association
    (Preliminary matters decision (2); July 26, 2016; Melissa Luhtanen, Tribunal Chair)
  • Douglas Klinger v. Cubbon Building Centre (Preliminary matters decision regarding severance agreement; July 14, 2016; Gwen Gray, Q.C., Tribunal Chair)
  • Thu Hien Pham v. Vu's Enterprises Ltd. o/a La Prep and Son Vu (July 5, 2016; D. Jean Munn, Q.C., Tribunal Chair)
  • Hannah Pelchat v. Ramada Inn and Suites (Cold Lake), o/a Cold Lake Investments Ltd. (June 23, 2016; Kathryn Oviatt, Tribunal Chair) 
These tribunal decisions can be accessed free of charge through the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website.

COMMISSION NEWS

1. Understanding and Preventing Harassment in the Workplace webcast series available on-demand:
Harassment based on specific areas and grounds is a form of discrimination that is protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act. Alberta workplaces, including businesses, corporations, nonprofits, governments, educational institutions and unions, report that they continue to see incidents of harassment in their workplaces.
As such, the Commission hosted a three-part webinar series entitled "Understanding and Preventing Harassment in the Workplace," which includes information about:
  1. Developing and Implementing a Harassment Prevention Policy
  2. Roles and Responsibilities of Organizations
  3. I am Being Harassed or Witnessing Harassment. What Can I do?
To view these free webcasts, visit the Commission's e-learning centre.

2. Diversity Leadership Award of Distinction:

ABAD 2017 Business Awards Logo SMALL.jpg

Nominations are now open for the 2017 Diversity Leadership Award of Distinction: Once again, the Commission is partnering with the Alberta Chambers of Commerce to offer the Diversity Leadership Award of Distinction, which is part of the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction program. The Diversity Leadership Award recognizes workplaces that welcome diversity in their workforces, are eliminating discrimination and barriers to employment and are helping to build respectful and inclusive workplaces. Organizations in all sectors, including businesses, community organizations and public institutions, are eligible to apply. You can read more about the award. The deadline for submitting nominations online is October 31, 2016.
Recipient of 2016 Diversity Leadership Award of Distinction: On February 26, 2016, Mr. Robert Philp, Queen's Counsel, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, presented the award to DynaLIFEDX of Edmonton at an awards event at the Renaissance Edmonton Airport Hotel. DynaLIFEDX was recognized for their efforts in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. You can read more about the 2016 recipient.
 
Brooks McDonald's was recognized as a finalist for their efforts in building a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Diversity_Award_1_(2).jpg
Mr. Robert Philp, Queen's Counsel, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, with 2016 Diversity Leadership Award recipient Wendy Gerber, Vice President, Human Resources, DynaLIFEDX.

3. Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund:
 

The Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund (the Fund) supports community projects that foster equality and reduce discrimination.

Recently completed projects that were supported by the Fund: 

  • The Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary (ECCC), in collaboration with 17 other organizations, developed and conducted a comprehensive survey of 2,214 Alberta men in an attempt to understand the enablers and barriers that affect men's ability to have relationships free of gender-based violence. The survey was developed as a tool to learn more about men's well-being and healthy relationships and it explored how societal, health and other factors impact interactions. During the project, a network of organizations from across the province became involved in helping to expand the survey to reach a broader diversity of men and to include the capacities, supports, services and resources needed in order for the men to take an active role in reducing gender-based violence. The formation of the Alberta Men's Network to implement and summarize the data was one of the results of this survey expansion.

    Some of the findings of the survey include recommendations on improving government policies, how to inform violence prevention research and the service delivery systems that support men in relationships. You can read more about the survey and findings.

  • The Discussing Treaty 7 Education Committee of the Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society developed educational curriculum to accompany video clips from the 2015 production of Making Treaty 7 - We Are All Treaty People. Intended for high school educators and students, the curriculum describes the historic and current human rights issues related to the signing of Treaty 7. You can access the video clips and curriculum. Anyone interested in participating in the 2017 program can email: info@makingtreaty7.com.
     
  • The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA) collaborated with service providers to develop plain language online resources that address real-life examples of discrimination and harassment situations when renting or applying to rent a home. Although originally developed for Canadian newcomers, the resources will be helpful for anyone renting in Alberta. Resources were also developed for service providers who perform outreach in the community.

4. The Commission in the community:

  • Inclusion Conference 2016: On October 4, 2016, Cam Stewart, Education and Engagement Consultant, Alberta Human Rights Commission, offered the keynote speech at the Inclusion Conference 2016: Building Inclusive Neighbourhoods in a Changing World. The conference was hosted by the City of Lethbridge Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination in collaboration with the City of Lethbridge Beyond Your Front Door initiative and other community partners.

  • Accommodation on Campuses workshop: On September 22, 2016, Janice Ashcroft, Q.C., Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, facilitated a workshop at Ambrose University on "Accommodation on Campuses" to the Calgary Post-Secondary Diversity and Human Rights Network. The Commission is a partner in the network and helped organize the workshop. Participants engaged in valuable discussions including accommodation of students with disabilities in professional programs and the roles of post-secondary institutions.

  • GlobalFest Human Rights Forum 2016: On August 18, 2016, Mr. Robert Philp, Queen's Counsel, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, served as a moderator for the session, The Refugee Experience: Settlement & Integration, at the GlobalFest Human Rights Forum 2016 in Calgary. Members of the panel included Marjorie MacRae, Refugee Sponsorship Initiative; Roda Siad, Documentary Filmmaker and Community Developer; Aileen Astudillo, Cargill, Senior Human Rights Generalist at Cargill Foods High River; and Honourable Ricardo Miranda, Alberta Minister of Culture and Tourism. The goal of the forum is to promote diversity, cross-cultural respect, and equality to encourage systemic change across the Canadian community in a positive and safe environment. You can view a Youtube video of the session moderated by Mr. Philp.

5. Reflections from the Commission on Best Practice Award: In 2014, the Commission, in partnership with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), was honoured to receive a Best Practice Award for their Welcoming and Inclusive Communities (WIC) Initiative. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) recently invited the Commission to reflect on the award. You can read the Commission's article on the CRRF website.

6. Commission receives award: On August 13, 2016, the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW Canada) recognized the Alberta Human Rights Commission as one of the 100 organizations from across Canada to receive the 2016 BPW Canada Centennial Recognition Award to mark a Canadian milestone, the 100 years of women's suffrage. The Centennial Gala and Awards Night recognized and paid tribute to the 100 organizations that are dedicated to improving lives of Canadian women and girls, their families and their communities. It was an evening to mark the centennial year of women's suffrage and to showcase empowering women in our changing world.

 BPW.jpg
Nancy Stapley, President, BPW Calgary; Susan Coombes, Manager, Alberta Human Rights Commission; and Jenny Gulamani-Abdulla, President, BPW Canada.

PUBLICATIONS AND RESOURCES

1. New website for refugees: The Alberta Association of Immigrant Service Agencies launched the first phase of a multilingual website Refugee Alberta. The website offers refugees information on resettlement and daily life in Alberta, and profiles over 1400 services available throughout the province. The website will be useful for settlement practitioners, municipal elected officials and staff and the general public.

2. Disclosure regarding disability: Two resources are offered regarding disclosure of a disability:

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