Newsletter

Alberta Human Rights Information Service (AHRIS) is a free online newsletter that keeps subscribers up-to-date on Commission news and events.

Alberta Human Rights Information Service (AHRIS) is a free online newsletter that keeps subscribers up-to-date on Commission news and events. AHRIS also provides timely information about human rights and diversity from other organizations.

Please note: some links on this webpage may no longer be active. All links were available at the time of publishing.

Alberta Human Rights Information Service - December 8, 2023

In this issue:

International 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. 50 years: Upholding human rights in Alberta
2. Follow us on Facebook!
3. Update your bookmarks for our new website
4. Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism
5. The Commission and the community

Other news
1. Alberta Hate Crimes Committee rebrands to StopHateAB

International Human Rights Day is December 10

December 10 is International Human Rights Day. This year, it coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed on December 10, 1948. For 75 years, the Declaration has affirmed the fundamental principles of human rights, justice, and equality. Since its creation, the Declaration has laid the foundation for human rights laws around the world.

Blue, gold, and white. Text: Freedom, equality and justice for all. 75th anniversary logo, UN logo. Visuals: Diverse group of faces representing shared humanity and equality, embracing universality and promoting solidarity.United Nations Human Rights Day

To mark this important occasion, the United Nations theme for International Human Rights Day 2023 is dignity, freedom, and justice for all. The first article of the Declaration proclaims that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The Commission is proud that the Alberta Human Rights Act is rooted in these same principles, with the preamble of the Act echoing that “it is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle and as a matter of public policy that all persons are equal in: dignity, rights and responsibilities.”

This year’s International Human Rights Day also marks the end of the Commission’s 50th anniversary and our #AB50for50 campaign. As we reflect on these human rights milestones, both in this province and across the globe, the Commission encourages all Albertans to continue taking proactive steps to prevent and address discrimination. Everyone can contribute to building a province where human rights are valued and upheld. On this International Human Rights Day and beyond, let us celebrate our collective rights, while recognizing our shared responsibilities to advance dignity, freedom, and justice for all.

Message from the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals
To recognize this important day, read a message from Kathryn Oviatt, 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 a recent Tribunal decision

Duty to accommodate post-termination/Damages for complainant who has died
The Estate of Donald Mitchell v South Country Co-op Limited, 2023 AHRC 115 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, November 3, 2023)

The complainant was employed as a clerk at the respondent’s liquor store and suffered from depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse. One day, the complainant attended work while intoxicated. That night, the complainant tried to contact his supervisor. He called five times, but his calls and messages were not answered or returned. The next day, the complainant completed intake forms and screening at Alberta Health Services Addictions and Mental Health Adult Community Services. The employer terminated him on the following day. At the termination meeting, the complainant indicated that he had mental health issues and had booked a counselling appointment. He also explained that he was currently going through some financial distress. The employer said that because he was on probation, they were within their right to terminate him without notice.

Before the complainant was heard by the Tribunal, the complainant passed. The Tribunal hearing proceeded and the Tribunal found that there was discrimination. The employer did not investigate nor inquire about the complainant’s strange behaviour and did not answer his calls that evening. A duty to inquire may even be triggered after a termination. The complainant in this case had disclosed his mental disability and requested accommodation.

While the Tribunal found merit to the case, no damages were awarded. The Tribunal found that the Survival of Actions Act applied, stating that only actual financial loss was recoverable by a deceased’s estate, stemming from a civil action. Damages for pain and suffering are meant to put the person back in the place they would have been, had there not been discrimination. In this case, the complainant was deceased and as a result, there was no way to compensate him for pain and suffering.

Commission news

1. 50 years: Upholding human rights in Alberta

2023 marked the Commission’s 50th anniversary. Throughout the year, as we looked back on Alberta’s human rights history, the Commission was proud to partner with organizations across the province to advance a culture of human rights. Through the #AB50for50 campaign, we encouraged Albertans to take action by spending 50 minutes learning more about human rights or supporting a human rights organization during the 50th anniversary year.

Alberta’s human rights sector has worked together for several decades to address hate, discrimination, and inequality. During 2023, the Commission presented at more than 40 public events, including conferences, annual general meetings, seminars, and community gatherings. Presentation topics included preventing hate, racism, and Islamophobia, creating pathways to justice for Indigenous women and girls, addressing labour and employment gaps for newcomers and immigrants, advancing disability rights, understanding the human rights complaint process and rights and responsibilities in Alberta, and much more. Together with stakeholders, the Commission worked to increase human rights capacity across the province, some of which we highlight below.

All year-long the Commission worked to improve our communication with Albertans. In March, we launched a LinkedIn account, aiming to better reach a variety of audiences, including service providers, employees and employers, human resources professionals, industry associations, advocates, unions, academics, and small- and medium-sized businesses.

In September, we launched a new website, combining best practices in accessibility with an updated design to improve the user experience and help Albertans better navigate our information. Our new website now reaches more users than before, with a mobile-friendly design and a focus on plain language writing. We are continuing to embed American Sign Language (ASL) translation videos for all our content, and users can now complete and submit a complaint form directly through our website.

We also launched a new tool to collect demographics information from people making a human rights complaint, so that we can better understand who is accessing our services and ensure that we are not creating barriers or inadvertently discriminating against groups. Our intention is to use this data to identify gaps in our services and address barriers as we move forward.

Over the past several years, the Commission has been committed to helping address discrimination against Indigenous Peoples in Alberta through our Indigenous Human Rights Strategy. In our 50th year, we continued this commitment through our ongoing focus on reducing barriers for Indigenous people so they are able to receive effective, accessible, and culturally relevant services.

The Commission now has two eagle feathers available in our Edmonton and Calgary offices, which can be used during meetings or to swear an oath or hold while giving statements during the complaint or Tribunal processes.

Our new website now has an Indigenous human rights page specifically designed to better serve Indigenous people in Alberta, as well as information specific to Indigenous Peoples embedded throughout the site.

In April 2023, the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples, expressing the Commission’s willingness to work with other provincial, territorial, and federal human rights bodies to improve access to justice and ensure Indigenous people have confidence in Canada’s human rights systems.

In September 2023, the Commission hosted a 50th anniversary symposium, bringing together more than 200 human rights stakeholders to learn about current human rights issues and look towards the future of human rights in Alberta. Attendees represented Alberta municipalities, Indigenous communities, the disability sector, ethno-cultural communities, religious groups, labour organizations, human resources professionals, government leaders, the legal community, and many others. In her keynote address to the symposium attendees, the Honourable Rita Khullar, Chief Justice of Alberta, reflected on the importance of human rights work over the past 50 years and discussed the ongoing need to advance human rights principles.

Throughout the year, Commission staff participated in internal training as part of the Commission’s commitment to ensuring that staff receive ongoing education on human rights issues. Led by experts with lived experience, staff-wide training sessions and courses covered topics including anti-Black racism, Indigenous histories and the current legacies of colonialism, and equity and inclusion for people with disabilities. In May 2023, staff deepened their understanding about the history of human rights across Canada during lunchtime learning sessions. In September 2023, all staff participated in specialized training on how to use our blessed eagle feathers, led by Knowledge Keeper, Steven O’Chiese.

The Commission is always working to find efficiencies to resolve complaints in a timelier manner. Since 2019, we have been working to develop more efficient processes, such as virtual conciliation meetings and streamlined investigations. The Commission implemented a revised complaint process January 1, 2022. The result of our revised complaints process has been a continued downward trend in the length of time it takes to resolve complaints, despite a record number of accepted complaints in recent years.

To support Albertans at the Tribunal stage of our complaints process, we have adopted our Tribunal processes to be fully accessible virtually. In January of this year, the Tribunal also hired a Case Manager who acts as a navigator to help self-represented parties experiencing challenges in understanding Tribunal processes. While the Case Manager does not provide legal advice, they do provide legal information and procedural guidance and, when appropriate, refer parties to external resources.

Since the start of 2023, we have looked back on the Commission’s work upholding human rights in Alberta over the last 50 years. We have also looked forward to the decades ahead with determination to continue creating an equitable, diverse, and inclusive Alberta that is free from hate, racism, and discrimination. As this year comes to a close, the Commission is grateful for the many Albertans that took part in our anniversary campaign, putting on local events, watching documentaries, listening to human rights speeches, hosting challenges on university campuses, and engaging in many other activities in support of human rights. As we look towards the future, we encourage Albertans to continue playing an active role in creating a society where everyone can participate, free from discrimination.

2. Follow us on Facebook!

The Commission has launched a Facebook page to provide up-to-date information to more members of the public. Facebook will enable us to connect with a variety of Albertans, including community groups, non-profit organizations, stakeholder organizations, and other audiences.

Our Facebook page aims to improve communication with stakeholders, providing details about the Commission’s processes, updates on the Commission’s education and engagement work, information on community partnerships and upcoming events, announcements about new resources and publications, and more.

Be sure to follow the Commission on Facebook for regular updates about human rights in Alberta. We welcome you to engage with our posts by sharing, liking, and commenting.

3. Update your bookmarks for our new website

To ensure you stay connected and informed, remember to update any bookmarked pages or links from our website that you may have saved on your devices. This will ensure seamless access to the Commission’s latest information and services.

4. Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism

Graduate students attending an Alberta public post-secondary institution, and whose studies will contribute to the advancement of human rights and multiculturalism, are encouraged to apply for the Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism.

There are two annual awards, including the Master's level award for $10,000 and the Doctoral level award for $15,000. The Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund provided funding for this award, which is administered jointly by the Alberta Human Rights Commission and Alberta Advanced Education. Interested graduate students can apply by visiting Alberta Student Aid. The application deadline is January 15, 2024.

5. The Commission and the community

  • On October 24, 2023, Kathryn Oviatt, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, participated in Lean In Network Calgary’s “Panel Perspectives” webinar. The event centered on emphasizing the challenges hindering gender equality and offered practical guidance for organizations aiming to address and overcome these disparities.

  • On October 27, 2023, the Commission attended “Action through Connection: Women in Employment and Entrepreneurship,” hosted by PolicyWise for Children & Families. The Commission is working alongside PolicyWise to develop a tool for navigators to help them support their clients in understanding their rights and how to request accommodation in the workplace. Lara Apps, Director of Complaints Management, spoke on the employers’ and entrepreneurs’ duty to accommodate.

  • On November 4, 2023, the Commission collaborated with the University of Calgary and the City of Peace River to host a conversation, facilitated by Cam Stewart, about diversity, inclusion, and equity in mental health issues in the greater Peace River area.

  • On November 23, 2023, the Commission attended StopHateAB’s (formerly Alberta Hate Crimes Committee) stakeholder meeting in Red Deer, where Cam Stewart facilitated a discussion on community issues and the needs around hate crimes and incidents.

  • On November 30, 2023, Cam Stewart brought Commission greetings to the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center’s “International Human Rights Protections for Children in Armed Conflict” event. He spoke on Albertans’ rights and responsibilities to stand up for human rights.

  • On December 6-7, 2023, Anne Clennett, Director of Communication, Education and Engagement, and Evan Brunner, Policy and Program Consultant, met with the Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission to present on our Indigenous Human Rights Strategy and the work we have undertaken with community partners and our Indigenous Advisory Circle members to advance human rights for Indigenous people in Alberta. We also learned about their efforts to incorporate restorative practices within their human rights complaints process.

  • The Commission participated in the John Humphrey Centre’s Ignite Change Global Convention, which recognized the UN Declaration of Human Rights’ 75th anniversary.

    • On December 2, 2023, Cam Stewart, Policy and Program Consultant, co-facilitated a presentation with Nina Saini, Executive Director of StopHateAB on hate crime and incidents research in Alberta and recommendations for action.

    • On December 9, 2023, Anne Clennett and Evan Brunner will present on the evolution of the Commission’s Indigenous Human Rights Strategy and progress made in addressing human rights issues for Indigenous people in Alberta.

Other news

1. Alberta Hate Crimes Committee rebrands to StopHateAB

The Alberta Human Rights Commission has been a supporter of the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee (AHCC) since the committee's inception in 2002. Earlier this year, the committee received the Alberta Community Justice Award (for Partnership and Collaboration), which recognizes the outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations promoting community justice in the province. After over 20 years, AHCC is rebranding to StopHateAB as it continues to foster an environment where all Albertans live in an inclusive, safe, caring, respectful, and hate-free community.

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