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Alberta Human Rights Information Service September 30, 2021

In this issue:

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is September 30

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

Commission news
     1. New members of the Commission appointed
     2. Human Rights in the Workplace online public workshop
     3. Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant project
     4. The Commission and the community

NATIONAL DAY FOR TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION IS SEPTEMBER 30
Today marks Canada's first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This federally-regulated day will provide space to acknowledge and redress the history and legacy of Canada's residential school system. The new holiday coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which has been observed for many years as a day of remembrance for the lives of thousands of Indigenous children that were lost at Indian Residential Schools across the country.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called for the creation of such a day as part of its 94 Calls to Action released in 2015. Specifically, they called upon the federal government "in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process."

The Alberta Human Rights Commission is moving forward on a few key initiatives in support of Indigenous human rights in Alberta, including establishing an Indigenous Human Rights Strategy. With support from our recently-selected Indigenous Advisory Circle, this strategy will help guide the Commission's practices and initiatives with the goal of reducing barriers that Indigenous individuals and communities face when seeking to enforce their rights under the Alberta Human Rights Act. It also aims to enhance the Commission's interaction with Indigenous people and communities in Alberta.

The Circle, established in August 2021, is made up of 12 members that will help guide the strategy's implementation. Importantly, this group will not replace broader engagement with Indigenous communities, organizations, and service providers in Alberta. Instead, it will provide strategic advice to help the Commission address and reduce discrimination against Indigenous Peoples, create more accessible and culturally relevant services, and strengthen and expand relationships with Indigenous organizations and communities, in all their diversity. The Circle members include: Kelly Benning, Samuel Crowfoot, Justin Gaudet, Janet Gobert, Heidi HeavyShield, Bernadette Iahtail, Nadine McRee, Jo-Anne Packham, Marggo Pariseau, Cindy Provost, Sarah Sinclair, and Rachelle Venne.

As we commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, the Commission continues to learn more about our shared history and will examine more effective ways to foster equality and affirm the human rights of Indigenous Peoples in Alberta.

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.

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 recent Tribunal decisions

No basis to proceed to hearing on two mask complaints

Beaudin v Zale Canada Co. o/a Peoples Jewellers, 2021 AHRC 155 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, August 16, 2021)
Szeles v Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd., 2021 AHRC 154 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, August 16, 2021)

Two complainants made separate complaints alleging discrimination in services when they were each not permitted to enter a store without a mask. Both noted that they had a disability preventing them from wearing a face mask. The stores in question, Peoples Jewellers and Costco, offered alternatives including free delivery, online shopping, and curbside pickup. Costco also allowed people to wear face shields instead of masks. The Director dismissed both complaints and each complainant individually filed an appeal under section 26 to the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals to review the Director's decision. The Chief cited the Meiorin case, where the Court found that a respondent may justify a rule or standard, which is discriminatory on its face, by showing that: the policy was introduced for a valid and legitimate business purpose, the policy was adopted in good faith, and there were not alternatives available to accommodate those negatively affected without incurring undue hardship.

In this case, the face mask policies were developed using public health guidelines supported by scientific data. The complainants did not provide any medical or other information to counter the public health restrictions. Human rights law requires a balancing of rights and an obligation of a service provider to accommodate adverse effects to the point of undue hardship. Both stores developed comprehensive policies, in good faith, which offered other methods of shopping. The complainants did not provide sufficient information to challenge the mask policies such that there was a reasonable basis to proceed to a Tribunal hearing. The Director's decisions in these matters were upheld.

Complainant fails to support case at Tribunal

Abel v Mwenebembe and Kaseka, 2021 AHRC 149 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, July 30, 2021)

This was a complaint based on tenancy, race, ancestry, religious belief, and colour. The complainant had carriage of the matter in front of the Tribunal. The parties attended a pre-hearing and were provided dates for hearing submissions and the hearing. The complainant did not provide her submissions by the due date. The complainant did not respond to the Registrar nor provide hearing submissions. On the hearing date, the complainant did not attend. The complainant was contacted by the Registrar, but said she was in a car with other people and had not had a chance to look at her emails, and then the line went dead. The Chair considered the respondent's application to dismiss the complaint. There is significant time and cost placed on the respondent to answer a complaint. The complainant has a responsibility to participate in the legal process to provide proof in support of their complaint. The Chair found that the complainant had not acted diligently, did not file her hearing submissions, made no attempt to join the Zoom hearing, and when the Registrar contacted her, did not explain why she was unable to stay in the hearing. The complaint was dismissed.

COMMISSION NEWS

1. New members of the Commission appointed

On August 21, 2021, the Lieutenant Governor in Council appointed four members of the Commission. The new members of the Commission are:

  • C. Nduka Ahanonu
  • Sandra Badejo
  • Dr. Evaristus A. Oshionebo
  • Wilma Shim

Read the biographies of the members of the Commission.

2. 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.

Spots are still available for the January 18-19, 2022 workshop.

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

3. Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant project

Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund logo 

One Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund grant recipient recently completed their funded project.

  • The Alberta Hate Crimes Committee (AHCC) used grant funding to enhance identification and measurements of hate crime trends, provide support for victims of hate incidents and bias activities, and build service provider capacity when responding to hate. The AHCC developed and implemented a communications plan to promote awareness of their StopHateAB.ca site, where hate incident victims can report their experiences. AHCC collaborated with Coalitions Creating Equity (CCE) Edmonton to develop restorative justice practices and capacity-building resources when addressing hate. This partnership resulted in the creation of Action Alberta, led by AHCC. Facilitator training for this program is ongoing and utilizes a newly developed Community Action Toolkit. The Toolkit describes AHCC and CCE Edmonton's best practices for engaging diverse stakeholders in addressing hate incidences. Contact AHCC for more information on training and resources.

4. The Commission and the community

  • Barrier-free Alberta: Over the past several years, the Commission has partnered with community stakeholders through the Alberta Ability Network to advance accessibility legislation in Alberta. Similar legislation exists in other provinces and federally with the Accessible Canada Act. Recently, Barrier-free Alberta launched in an effort to inform Albertans about the need for accessibility legislation in our province. "We are excited to report that the efforts to promote accessibility legislation in Alberta are going extremely well," says Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals. "Many community members and organizations, as well as many MLAs and government ministries, have indicated their support for this initiative, which will help advance inclusion and full participation for the 12.5% of Albertans who identify as a person with a disability."

 

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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.