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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Alberta Human Rights Information Service
September 30, 2022

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 and roles of the Commission appointed
     2. Order in Council rescinds appointment of Chief of the Commission and Tribunals
     3. Upcoming Human Rights in the Workplace public workshops
     4. The Commission and the community
     5. Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant project​

Other news
     1. Call for applications: Taking action against racism

NATIONAL DAY FOR TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION IS SEPTEMBER 30National Day for Truth and Reconciliation banner

Government of Canada. https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1100100013718/1534874583157

Today is Canada's National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. For many years, Indigenous people have observed this day by wearing orange T-shirts, a symbol to remember the thousands of Indigenous children whose lives were lost at residential schools across Canada. Between 1893 and 1996, 25 recognized residential schools operated in Alberta, more than any other province in the country. Tragically, the history and legacy of Canada's residential school system lives on today. A recent anti-racism study from the Blood Tribe First Nation in Alberta found that 97 per cent of Kainai survey respondents indicated racism was a problem (see more information about this project in the Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grant project section below).

The Alberta Human Rights Commission continues to work in collaboration with its Indigenous Advisory Circle to address and reduce discrimination and racism against Indigenous Peoples in Alberta. Working in partnership with the Indigenous community, the Commission is focused on addressing systemic issues in healthcare, education, child welfare, housing, employment, justice, and other sectors, recognizing that Indigenous people continue to be denied full and equal participation in the province's cultural, social, economic, and political life.

Internally, the Commission is also committed to improving policies, processes, and programs to better meet the needs of Indigenous people. Work​ is currently underway to facilitate the inclusion of Indigenous wisdom and ceremony into the complaints processes to allow members of the public to better engage with the Commission's systems/procedures. By creating more accessible and culturally relevant services, the Commission aims to better respond to the human rights issues Indigenous people experience in their daily lives.

As Albertans mark this day, the Commission reaffirms the commitment to reducing the barriers Indigenous people face when accessing our services and seeking out human rights supports. The Commission will continue to move forward on the path of reconciliation, in partnership with Indigenous people, communities, and organizations, to continue to combat discrimination in Alberta.​

Get engaged

The Commission is co-hosting an information booth with the Calgary Indigenous Human Rights Circle at the Pokaiks Commemorative Walk & IndigiTRAILS - Remembering Our Children event on September 30, 2022 at Prince's Island Park in Calgary. This event includes a walk, interactive activities, a reconcili-action panel, and other activities to show love, honour, and resistance to the Indigenous community. There is no cost for this event and it is open for people of all ages and backgrounds.

HUMAN RIGHTS CASE LAW: TRIBUNALS 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

Court upholds Tribunal decision stating that the Human Rights Commission has institutional expertise to understand racial bias
Wint v Alberta (Human Rights Commission), 2022 ABQB 87 (Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, January 31, 2022)

The complainant alleged that he had experienced racial bias at work and had been targeted because of his race when the respondent took certain actions. The complainant's matter was dismissed and he applied for judicial review by the Court of King's Bench.

The complainant argued that the decision was unreasonable because it failed to consider his lived experience as a Black person, and in particular did not consider mic​roaggressions that were the basis for his complaint. Mah, J. considered the term "microaggression" and noted that even before this term hit the lexicon, racial bias and stereotyping were considered in human rights cases. He stated that "at an institutional level," Members of the Commission "are aware of the insidious nature of routine and everyday discrimination, even in its microaggression form, and of its effects upon victims."

The Tribunal's decision was reasonable and the Court upheld it.

Complaint upheld based on family status and mental disability

Fisher (Marshall) v Devolbren Property Services Inc., 2022 AHRC 67 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, June 14, 2022)

The complainant worked for the respondent from 2014 to 2017, primarily in an administrative capacity. The complainant's common-law husband was one of the owners of the company. He quit in April 2017 and the remaining owners informed the complainant that she could no longer do her administrative role because of the "conflict of interest." Instead, they offered her full-time fieldwork. The complainant provided a medical note prescribing medical leave due to stress and anxiety. While on medical leave, she continued to work part-time at her second job as a waitress. Shortly thereafter, the respondent terminated the complainant's employment "for cause."

The Tribunal found that the complainant's family/marital status was a factor in the removal of her administrative duties. The reason for the removal was the "conflict of interest" caused by her relationship with her husband. The respondent made no effort to put measures in place to ensure confidentiality or address any concerns they would have had with continuing the complainant's employment.

The Tribunal also found that the complainant's mental disability was a factor in her dismissal for cause. The respondent's evidence was that they believed the complainant had been dishonest about needing medical leave because she "seemed fine." By taking their stereotypical view of what mental disability looked like into account in deciding whether she had been honest with them, they made her disability a factor in the decision to dismiss. Tribunal Chair Scott awarded $30,000 as general damages, plus two weeks' lost wages.

COMMISSION NEWS

1. New members and roles of the Commission appointed

On August 18, 2022, the Lieutenant Governor in Council appointed five Members of the Commission: Faraz Bawa, Samuel Crowfoot, Jessica Gill, Ali Memon, and Salimah Walji-Shivji. Learn more about these new members.

On August 31, 2022, the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General appointed Dr. Evaristus A. Oshionebo as Acting Chief of the Commission and Tribunals. Read more about Dr. Oshionebo.

2. Order in Council rescinds appointment of Chief of the Commission and Tribunals

On September 15, 2022, the Lieutenant Governor in Council rescinded the appointment and designation of Collin May as Chief of the Commission and Tribunals. Following the rescindment, the Lieutenant Governor in Council designated Dr. Evaristus A. Oshionebo as Chief of the Commission and Tribunals on September 27, 2022 for a term​ ending March 26, 2023.

3. Upcoming Human Rights in the Workplace 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.

Registration is currently open and available for the following workshop dates:

  • January 10-11, 2023
  • January 17-18, 2023
Learn more about the Commission's public workshops, the upcoming schedule, and registration details.
4. The Commission and the community
​Commission staff set up display booths and met with participants at two recent conferences. The display includes educational resources and promotional materials related to human rights and diversity.
  • Alberta Council of Disability Services (ACDS): Commission staff met with participants who attended the ReCharge: Let's Come Together at the ACDS 2022 Conference on September 28-29, 2022. The event reunited the community disability services sector, families, volunteers, and supporters through engaging and inspiring presentations and activities that focused on building individual and organizational resilience.​​ Commission staff provided information to participants on human rights issues, including information about the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and educational settings, and the human rights complaints process.          

  • ​​Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of Alberta (CPHR AB): Staff met with participants who attended Engage 22 on September 27, 2022. The event discussed current challenges faced by human resource professionals in light of "the new normal." Conference topics also included how to weave diversity, equity, and inclusion into the recruitment process and address personal biases in human resources work. The Commission provided information to human resources professionals about Alberta's human rights legislation, rights and responsibilities under the Alberta Human Rights Act, and other concepts like the duty to accommodate, preventing harassment in the workplace, and how to create workplaces that are free from discrimination. Participants were able to speak directly with a human rights officer about their specific issues.​​
5. 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:
  • ​With the Fund's support, the Kainaiwa Tribunal Government (Blood Tribe) has begun the process of addressing systemic and individual discrimination of Indigenous people within the Kainai area and surrounding municipalities. Indigenous community members in these areas have reported experiencing discrimination in urban centres in the region related to a range of services, including health, education, justice, housing, and employment. There are also issues of preferential treatment to others, inappropriate communication, and cultural insensitivity. The Blood Tribe conducted circle dialogues with Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders, and circulated 400 surveys to residents in the area to learn how they define, experience, and understand racism. A full report on the communities' feedback, along with recommendations for change, is posted on their website.

OTHER NEWS

1. Call for applications: Taking action against racism

The Government of Alberta currently has two active grant programs committed to combatting racism and promoting more inclusive and accepting communities across Alberta.

  • Anti-Racism Community Engagement Grant
    This grant program enables eligible organizations to host and carry out their own engagement sessions and ensure the needs and concerns of people in communities impacted by racism are heard. Feedback from the engagement sessions will inform how the Government of Alberta can play a leading role in addressing racism and identify what anti-racism actions, initiatives, programs, and services are needed to help address racism in Alberta. Application intake closes on October 21, 2022.

  • Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Grant
    This grant program supports community initiatives to increase cultural and cross-cultural awareness, and educate Albertans to prevent and address racism. Supporting community organizations empowers them to have a voice in determining solutions. Application intake closes on November 16, 2022.

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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.