Alberta Human Rights Information Service June 21, 2021

In this issue:

National Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21
     1. Message from the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals
     2. Commission launches Indigenous Human Rights Strategy
     3. Call for expressions of interest for Indigenous Advisory Circle membership

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

Commission news
     1. Vaccines and medical testing
     2. Career Opportunity: Website Project Coordinator
     3. 2019-20 Annual Report now available
     4. Case Inventory Resolution Project update
     5. Revised Human Rights Guides
     6. Partnering with the University of Alberta

     7. Human Rights in the Workplace online public workshops
     8. 2020 Human Rights and Multiculturalism Scholarship Recipients
     9. Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant project

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

NATIONAL INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY IS JUNE 21

This June marks the 25th anniversary of National Indigenous Peoples Day. Honour the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and take a moment to recognize the strength of Alberta's Indigenous communities.

1.  Message from the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals

To recognize this important day, read a message from Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission.

2.  Commission launches new Indigenous Human Rights Strategy and Indigenous Advisory Circle

The Alberta Human Rights Commission has a long history of engagement with and commitment to Indigenous Peoples in Alberta. In advancing this work, the Commission has developed, with community feedback, its Indigenous Human Rights Strategy to address and reduce systemic discrimination against Indigenous people; ensure its programs, services, and operations are accessible, meaningful, responsive, and culturally relevant to Indigenous people; and to strengthen and expand relationships with Indigenous communities and organizations. An Indigenous Advisory Circle will support and inform the Strategy's implementation.

3.  Call for expressions of interest for Indigenous Advisory Circle membership

As part of the Indigenous Human Rights Strategy, the Commission is putting out a call for Expressions of Interest for members of an Indigenous Advisory Circle. The Circle will be made up of leaders, elders and knowledge keepers, and experts from across the province who will help the Commission navigate this work in a thoughtful and respectful way. Circle members will provide advice on innovative and effective strategies to reduce barriers, strengthen relationships, increase participation, and address systemic issues. The Commission is now accepting applications until July 21, 2021.

HUMAN RIGHTS CASE LAW: TRIBUNAL DECISIONS

1.  Recent Tribunal decisions

Read all Tribunal decisions free of charge on the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website.

2.  Summary of a recent Tribunal decision

Case of race-based threats sent to Tribunal

Ledger v Alberta Health Services and Alberta Justice and Solicitor General (JSG), 2021 AHRC 95 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, April 23, 2021)

The complainant, who is an Indigenous woman, worked as a Registered Nurse at a provincial correctional facility. She was subjected to threats and abuse by other employees after attending a demonstration protesting systemic racism. She was also removed from her position, placed on temporary administrative leave, and later given alternate work that the respondent said would ensure her safety. She filed a human rights complaint, but it was dismissed by the Director of the Commission.

The complainant filed a request for review asking the Tribunal to review the Director's decision and decide if the complaint should have been dismissed or referred to the Tribunal for a hearing. Firstly, the respondent argued that a request to add a respondent to the complaint set a fresh time limit, resulting in the complaint being out of time. The Chief of the Commission and Tribunals found that this argument failed to recognize the difference between the commencement of a proceeding, subject to the one-year time limitation, and an amendment to an existing claim. Secondly, the respondent claimed that race did not play a role in its decision to move the complainant, or in the threats the complainant was subjected to at work. On that point, the Chief said:

"I need not decide whether an Indigenous woman who is called a racist and subjected to threats and abuse by white colleagues in her workplace, on the basis that she was seen protesting historic bias and racism against Indigenous people, itself constitutes workplace racial harassment. For the purposes of this review, it is sufficient to observe that the respondent JSG's position is flawed in a fundamental respect. When assessing whether there is connection between a prohibited ground of discrimination and adverse treatment, context must be considered. It is well established that discrimination, particularly racial discrimination, is rarely practiced overtly. It will most often be proven through circumstantial evidence and inference."

Finally, the respondent argued that it took the threats seriously and moved the complainant to a different area to protect her. The respondent told employees to cease distributing images of the complainant at the rally and it conducted a threat assessment. The Chief found that there was no dispute that the complainant was a victim of threats in the workplace. However, there was conflicting submissions on whether the respondent's reaction was sufficient. Given the role of a section 26 request for review (to decide whether there is a reasonable basis to send the complaint forward), the Chief overturned the Director's decision and sent the complaint to the Tribunal for a full hearing of the issues.

COMMISSION NEWS

1.  Vaccines and medical testing

As COVID-19 vaccines are offered to Albertans, many individuals, employers, service providers, and landlords may have questions about their rights and responsibilities. The duty to accommodate and avoiding negative consequences are important human rights considerations.

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

2.  Career Opportunity: Website Project Coordinator

The Commission is seeking to fill a temporary Website Project Coordinator role within the organization. The Commission's website is a key education tool giving the public information about human rights law, its application, and the human rights complaint process, as well as broader human rights principles. The Website Project Coordinator will lead the development of a new website from the conceptual stage through implementation and evaluation. It is an exciting project that modernizes the Commission's website with a new, accessible, and mobile-friendly interface, and re-tooled content. The job posting closes on June 30, 2021.   

3.  2019-20 Annual Report now available

The Commission's 2019-20 Annual Report is now available on our website.

4.  Case Inventory Resolution Project update

The Case Inventory Resolution Project (CIRP) launched in April 2019 to more efficiently deal with the inventory of approximately 1,700 files. As CIRP comes to the end of its mandate, it is clear that the project has been a success.

As of March 31, 2021, 99.9 per cent of files have been assigned and 78 per cent of the files are complete. Of the remaining open files, five per cent are at the investigation or conciliation stage, and seven per cent are at the Director or Tribunal stage.

CIRP file status is closed 1322, conciliation 60, investigation 9, director 94, tribunal 172, deferred 14
Through this project, the Commission's changes to its processes have significantly reduced the complaint inventory, resulting in more efficient complaint processing timelines while maintaining or increasing complaint resolution rates. Key lessons from CIRP have already changed the approach to the Commission's ongoing work and will continue to inform future changes made to the complaint process.

5.  Revised Human Rights Guides

The Commission has revised three of its human rights guides. The revised guides reflect the 2015 and 2018 amendments to the Alberta Human Rights Act, current case law, and Commission policies and guidelines at the time of updating.

Human rights guides offer a comprehensive discussion of important human rights topics. They cite case law, provide descriptions of legal principles drawn from the case law, and offer practical information.

  • Duty to accommodate provides an understanding of the duty to accommodate and includes information that will help readers to develop effective policies and procedures related to accommodation.
  • Duty to accommodate students with disabilities in post-secondary educational institutions applies the duty to accommodate in a post-secondary context. The guide aims to improve communication between students and the education sector about accommodation, and will promote shared responsibility for accommodation between the two groups. The Commission is grateful to the post-secondary institutions in Alberta that provided input towards this version of the publication.
  • Defences to human rights complaints (formerly titled, When is discrimination not a contravention of the law?) provides an understanding of the concept of reasonable and justifiable discrimination, as well as current decisions that apply to the exemption for reasonable and justifiable discrimination in section 11 of the Act.

6.  Partnering with the University of Alberta

The Commission has partnered with Students Legal Services (SLS) at the University of Alberta Law School on a project that will offer representation for self-represented parties (complainants and respondents) before the Tribunal. The project with SLS offers assistance to low-income, self-represented parties at Tribunal Dispute Resolution and Tribunal hearings. Self-represented complainants or respondents can apply to SLS, who determines eligibility and can designate a law student to work with the party. The law student acts under the supervision and mentorship of a program lawyer. While the program is independent of the Commission, Tribunal staff negotiated a new partnership with SLS in Spring 2021 and will facilitate contact between interested self-represented parties and SLS.

7.  Human Rights in the Workplace online public workshops

The Commission offers online Human Rights in the Workplace public workshops that 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.

The next online public workshop is available July 13-14, 2021.

Learn more about the Commission's public workshops, the schedule of upcoming dates, and how to register.

8.  2020 Human Rights and Multiculturalism Scholarship Recipients

The 2020 recipients of the Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism have been announced. This award encourages graduate studies that will create value for Albertans by promoting informed thinking about Canadian human rights, cultural diversity, and multiculturalism. The Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund made this award possible. The Master's level award honours Pardeep Gundara, one of Alberta's human rights champions.

  • Kassi Boyd received the doctoral level award. Kassi's research will explore how children with disabilities experience inclusive playgrounds. This research will bring to light the socio-cultural factors that shape inclusion at "inclusive" playgrounds. A deeper understanding of what makes an inclusive playground inclusive (or not) from the perspectives of children experiencing disability is necessary to (re)create and optimize these experiences for children across Alberta and Canada. The findings from this research could inform families, service providers, and policy-makers involved with creating inclusive play spaces for all ages and abilities.

  • Bozhena Fedynets received the Pardeep Singh Gundara Memorial Scholarship. Bozhena's master's research will examine the race-based experiences of ethnic minority law enforcement officers with members of the public while on duty. This research will explore officers' job satisfaction and professional identity in relation to their race-based interactions with civilians. The understanding of these relationships, along with the officers' recommendations, will inform improvements to law enforcement policy, recruitment, support, and training.

9.  Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant projects

Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund logo 

Two grant recipients under the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund have recently completed their funded projects. These projects examined and addressed internal systemic discrimination practices through an intersectional lens.

  • CommunityWise Resource Centre of Calgary conducted an Organizational Cultural Competency Assessment to measure their Board and staff's baseline awareness and knowledge of systemic issues and their level of Indigenous cultural competency. The results of the assessment, along with an internal policy and practice review, are being used to enhance and update their online tool, Anti-Racist Organizational Change (AROC): Resources and Tools for Nonprofits. In addition, CommunityWise developed an Anti-Racist Organizational Change and the Equity Framework that will be offered online to organizations who are interested in assessing and making positive change in their workplaces.

  • The Centre for Newcomers Society of Calgary has increased its capacity to support both LGBTQ2S+ newcomers and the receiving community by better understanding the complexities of newcomers who often experience one or more intersectional barriers such as race, physical disabilities, age, etc. To assist service agencies, the Centre for Newcomers developed an Intersectional Organizational Assessment and progress plan that assesses an organization's diversity and inclusion through six key business areas: community relations, internal communications, programs and services, human resources, governance and policy, and physical environment. Through a partnership with the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies, the assessment and audit are available online.

OTHER NEWS

1.  Grants available to communities addressing discrimination and racism

  • The City of Edmonton launched a new Anti-racism Grants Program to support youth, non-profit, and local grassroots organizations with developing anti-racism projects and events. The grant program supports the City's Anti-racism Advisory Committee mandate to raise awareness and drive action on racism and anti-racism in Edmonton, as well as to provide advice to City Council regarding community perspectives on issues relating to racism. The application deadline is July 16, 2021.

  • The Government of Canada launched a call for applications for their Intersectoral Action Fund. Intersectoral action refers to the ways that different groups and sectors of society work together to improve health and the conditions that shape health. Under the Fund, the Public Health Agency of Canada is seeking proposals for community-based projects that support collective action on the social determinants of health. The application deadline is July 12, 2021.

 

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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.