Alberta Human Rights Information Service December 10, 2020

In this issue:

Human Rights Day is December 10

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

Commission news
     1. Mask-wearing and human rights
     2. Update from the Tribunal Office
     3. Update on the Case Inventory Resolution Project
     4. Human Rights in the Workplace Online Public Workshop
     5. Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant projects
     6. The Commission and the community

Other news
     1. Grants available to communities addressing human rights, discrimination, and racism

 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY IS DECEMBER 10

United Nations Human Rights Day 2020 Theme: Recover Better. Stand Up for Human Rights.

December 10 marks International Human Rights Day and the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This foundational document outlines the many freedoms to which we are all entitled, including that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

Message from Michael Gottheil

To recognize this important day, read the message "Which Rights? Whose Voices?" from Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission.

United Nations 2020 Campaign Theme

This year's theme is "Recover Better - Stand Up for Human Rights." From the UN Human Rights Day website:

Human Rights must be at the centre of the post COVID-19 world.

  • End discrimination of any kind.
    Structural discrimination and racism have fuelled the COVID-19 crisis. Equality and non-discrimination are core requirements for a post-COVID world.

  • Address inequalities.
    To recover from the crisis, we must also address the inequality pandemic. For that, we need to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights. We need a new social contract for a new era.

  • Encourage participation and solidarity.
    We are all in this together. From individuals to governments, from civil society and grass-roots communities to the private sector, everyone has a role in building a post-COVID world that is better for present and future generations. We need to ensure the voices of the most affected and vulnerable inform the recovery efforts.

  • Promote sustainable development.
    We need sustainable development for people and planet. Human rights, the 2030 Agenda, and the Paris Agreement are the cornerstone of a recovery that leaves no one behind.

For helpful tools on how to get involved, visit the UN.org website.

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 a recent Tribunal decision

Boehnisch v Sunshine Village Corporation, 2019 AHRC 55 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, October 29, 2019)
Sunshine Village Corporation v Boehnisch, 2020 ABQB 692 (Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta, November 10, 2020)
Ski patroller presumed to have a disability, let go when she would not accept a sedentary position
Michaela Boehnisch was a ski patroller for Sunshine Village from 1991 to 2002. Each year, she worked the ski season and was then laid off during the summer, to be re-hired the following season.

In 2013, Sunshine Village began to voice concerns about her physical ability to do the job. From their perspective, she had had a number of injuries and they were concerned she could not fulfill the role as a ski patroller. There was some discussion about potentially creating a job that was a combination of an office job and working on the ski hill, and Boehnisch offered to take a physical demands assessment to prove that she was physically able to continue as a ski patroller. However, the evidence at the hearing supported that Sunshine Village did not follow up on arrangements for an assessment to be done for the 2013 ski season. They offered her a job in dispatch and said that a physical demands assessment was not necessary for that position. When Boehnisch refused to accept that position, Sunshine Village indicated that her employment had come to an end.

The Tribunal found that Sunshine Village discriminated against Boehnisch based on a physical disability, but denied her claim that it was also related to her age or gender. The Tribunal also found that Sunshine Village did not properly assess her fitness for work before offering an accommodated position in another area. Boehnisch was awarded $25,000 in general damages plus lost wages for two ski seasons. Sunshine Village appealed this decision to the Court of Queen's Bench, which dismissed the appeal.

COMMISSION NEWS

1. Mask-wearing and human rights

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our lives and our work. One impact is the requirement to wear a mask. Many individuals, employers, and service providers have questions about their rights and responsibilities related to mask-wearing. Anyone dealing with the public will benefit from knowing how COVID-19, including mask-wearing, relates to human rights.

Visit www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca/covid for more detailed information about mask-wearing and other topics related to COVID-19 and human rights.

2. Update from the Tribunal Office

Due to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases across Alberta and the voluntary measures recommended by public health authorities to stop the virus's spread, the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal has moved all tribunal hearings to videoconference. Tribunal Dispute Resolutions (TDR) are already conducted over videoconference and both hearings and TDRs will continue this way until further notice.

3. Update on the Case Inventory Resolution Project

The Case Inventory Resolution Project (CIRP) launched in April 2019 to deal with the inventory of approximately 1,700 files more efficiently. After 19 months, 52% of the files are completed, the majority of which closed through conciliation. An additional 28% of the files are at the Director or Tribunal stage of the complaint process. The remaining 20% have been assigned and are being actively worked on. The results continue to indicate that the Commission is on track to resolve all pre-2019 files by March 31, 2021.

CIRP File Status: 52% Closed, 20% Investigation or Conciliation, 28% Director or Tribunal Stage

4. Human Rights in the Workplace Online Public Workshop

In the New Year, the Commission will be offering its Human Rights in the Workplace public workshops online. These workshops, previously offered in-person, 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.

"We knew early on in the pandemic that we would need to be nimble and adjust to ensure that our services could continue amidst COVID restrictions," says Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals. "These interactive workshops provide important information to employers, service providers, and individuals about human rights principles. Offering our workshops online is an effective way for Albertans from communities in all parts of the province to get the information they need. It's one more step to increasing access to justice for all."

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

5. Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant projects

Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund logo

Several grant recipients under the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund (HREMF) have recently completed their funded projects:

  • The Coalitions Creating Equity (CCE) initiative, involving the Alberta Human Rights Commission and five Alberta communities, has generated a final report summarizing activities and positive outcomes using a collective action approach. The CCE initiative was developed to address many of the concerns raised in the Commission's Your Voice report and to build the capacity of individuals and organizations in addressing equity, racism, and human rights through community engagement, leadership support, and building capacity. The coalition involved collaborative efforts within the communities of Wood Buffalo, Lethbridge, Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer. Together, Coalition communities developed a province-wide Response Model for Hate Incidents in Alberta that will assist service providers with an effective mechanism of responding to hate incidents. The CCE will continue its work as a Community of Practice (CoP) on equity issues in Alberta using a collaborative approach. If you are interested in learning more about this CoP, contact Helen.Rusich@reachedmonton.ca.

  • Alberta educators at Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) have increased their capacity to integrate Indigenous issues of discrimination, racism, and reconciliation into the classroom. The Immigrant Education Society (TIES) collaborated with Indigenous Friendship Centres, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers to produce a comprehensive guide, Indigenous Voices in the Classroom, for readers with basic comprehension of the English language (rated CLB 4). The guide incorporates activities and resources to enhance the learning experience.

    With the growing awareness of this project, Immigrant, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is planning to incorporate the project's Indigenous content into their national online English curriculum for permanent residents and refugees. IRCC will be adding interviews with Indigenous Elders in other provinces to expand the information. TIES has also received additional funding to expand this guide for the IRCC to meet CLB levels 1 and 2 standards.

6. The Commission and the community

  • Anti-Racism and Acts of Solidarity - Part 1: On November 12, 2020, Mohammed Hashim (Executive Director at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation), Sam Singh (Social Innovator from Edmonton Shift Lab), and Cam Stewart (Policy & Program Consultant with the Alberta Human Rights Commission) presented on a two-part roundtable webinar series. Hosted by the Centre for Race and Culture, speakers engaged in a panel conversation on what it means to be allies and ways to take part in acts of solidarity with racialized groups in our community.

  • Commemorating International Human Rights Day: On November 26, 2020, Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, offered greetings on behalf of the Commission at the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre's International Human Rights Day virtual event. Mr. Gottheil noted that the current pandemic shines a light on existing systemic discrimination, highlighting how it disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, and if we are to "build back better," these communities need to be involved in the conversations and in developing the solutions.

  • Working Together to Address Anti-Indigenous Racism: In recognition of the United Nations Human Rights Day on December 10, 2020, the Calgary Indigenous Human Rights Circle (of which the Commission is a member) is hosting a full-day virtual gathering to inspire and educate. Community members, stakeholders, and leaders are meeting to build the capacity of those interested in addressing the racism and discrimination Indigenous Peoples in Calgary face.

    Keynote speakers include Honourable Dr. Jane Philpott (Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen's University) and Samuel Crowfoot (Siksika First Nations Councillor).

OTHER NEWS

1. Grants available to communities addressing human rights, discrimination, and racism

  • The Government of Alberta's Multiculturalism, Indigenous and Inclusion Grant (MIIG) Program is accepting applications for its upcoming March 31, 2021 deadline. The MIIG Program supports initiatives and projects that build intercultural awareness and understanding in Alberta. It fosters cultural awareness in communities across the province, as well as an appreciation and celebration of Indigenous Peoples and multicultural society in Alberta. The Program strives to create a province where people feel included and where their cultures and heritage are valued.

  • The Government of Canada has launched a call for proposals for their Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives (CSMARI) Program. The CSMARI Program supports the mandate of the Department of Canadian Heritage by building on Canada's strength as a diverse and inclusive society. It has three funding components: Events, Projects, and Community Capacity Building.

 

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