December 9, 2022

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.

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Alberta Human Rights Information Service December 9, 2022

In this issue:

A milestone human rights day

  1. Message from the outgoing Chief of the Commission and Tribunals

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. Call for expressions of interest for Indigenous Advisory Circle membership
  3. Upcoming Human Rights in the Workplace public workshops
  4. The Commission and the community

Other news

  1. Disability advocate expands office to Calgary

A milestone Human Rights Day

Tomorrow is Human Rights Day, marking the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. The Declaration affirms the fundamental principles of human rights: freedom, justice, and equality.

This year's Human Rights Day coincides with major milestones both at home and abroad. It marks the launch of the Alberta Human Rights Commission's year-long 50th anniversary celebrations, recognizing our work upholding human rights in Alberta since 1973. Tomorrow also marks the United Nations' campaign launch commemorating the UDHR's upcoming 75th anniversary​ and the significance of its impact and legacy around the world.

The Commission is proud to play a role in carrying out the principles of the UDHR, affirming that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." On Human Rights Day and every day, we uphold the universal, inherent rights that each person is entitled to and that are fundamental to fostering communities free from discrimination.

As the Commission looks forward to a landmark year ahead, we encourage all Albertans to reflect on the progress the province has made in the continued pursuit of human rights and justice. At the same time, today is a time to reflect on opportunities for progress, and to take action to ensure that all Albertans are protected from discrimination and able to lead dignified lives.

1. Message from the outgoing Chief of the Commission and Tribunals

To recognize this important day, read a message "A Society Free from Discrimination" from Dr. Evaristus A. Oshionebo, outgoing 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

Sexual harassment in hotel room on business trip

McCharles v Jaco Line Contractors Ltd., 2022 AHRC 115​ (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, October 11, 2022)

The complainant alleged that the respondent company's owner sexually harassed her when they were on a business trip. The owner insisted on booking a hotel suite for their stay. He slept in the master bedroom and she was given the sofa bed in the main area. The complainant alleged that she went for a nap and woke up to find the owner grabbing her breasts and hip. She also alleged that the workplace was a poisoned work environment, and she was called offensive names behind her back. The owner denied these allegations. Shortly after the business trip, the complainant was fired, citing poor performance.

Two days after termination, the respondent discovered that the complainant had stolen some money. The complainant said that the money had been approved as vacation pay, but this was found to be untrue.

The question at the hearing was whether the complainant had been terminated for cause, or for complaining about sexual harassment. Chair Ringseis noted that the owner admitted that the complainant had accused him of inappropriate sexual touching, while on the ride home from the business trip.

The Chair found:

[71]  The evidence clearly supports that the timeline of events connects the accusation of sexual harassment to the complainant's termination. The sexual harassment occurred, the complainant verbally accused the Owner of the unwelcome touching, the complainant then went on holidays and the very day she returned, she was terminated with no reasons provided. Then two days after the termination, the Owner's Initial Lawyer provided the reason of stealing money and the sudden declaration of poor performance.

The complainant was awarded 30 days of lost wages and $50,000 in damages for pain and suffering. The company was ordered to provide training to all employees within 60 days of the order.

Commission news

1. 50 years: Upholding human rights in Alberta

Next year will be a major milestone for human rights in Alberta, marking 50 years since the Alberta Human Rights Commission was established and new laws came into force that set the stage for the Alberta Human Rights Act of today.

Human rights in Alberta have come a long way in the past 50 years. Through public education, partnerships with community stakeholders, and process changes, we have collaborated with many in the human rights sector to uphold the principles that all persons are equal in dignity, rights, and responsibilities.

While Alberta has made significant progress on human rights, the high number of complaints the Commission receives indicates that discrimination persists and that there is still much work to do to protect human rights for all. As a result, we are working to address systemic discrimination that continues to marginalize particular communities in the province, including people with disabilities, Indigenous people, religious minorities, the 2SLGBTQ+ community, women, and racialized people.

As Alberta looks back on 50 years of human rights history in 2023, the Commission will be launching the "50 for 50" campaign. Through this campaign, we will be challenging Albertans to take action in support of human rights. Together with stakeholders, we are aiming to increase human rights capacity by connecting organizations with Albertans who are interested in making a tangible difference. By working together, the 50 for 50 campaign will encourage a culture of human rights and inspire Albertans to play an active role in creating a society where everyone can fully participate, free from discrimination.

The Commission will draw attention to the strong human rights sector in Alberta, which has worked together for several decades to challenge hate, discrimination, and intolerance. Through the 50 for 50 campaign, everyone in Alberta can take part in learning about various human rights issues that affect them and those in their communities.

No action is too small. Whether you choose to volunteer at a local organization or learn about a particular aspect of human rights that pertains to you, the possibilities are endless. The 50 for 50 initiative will offer Albertans a first-hand opportunity to improve our human rights landscape.

Visit our campaign page throughout 2023 to learn more about how people around the province are standing up for human rights, 50 years on.

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

The Commission is looking to complete its Indigenous Advisory Circle with a member from Southern Alberta (preferably with experience in child welfare, education, labour/business, the disability sector, or social services/housing/income support), as well as a member from the 2SLGBTQ+ community. The Circle is made up of Indigenous leaders, knowledge keepers, and experts from across the province who help the Commission in implementing its Indigenous Human Rights Strategy in a thoughtful and respectful way. Circle members provide advice on innovative and effective strategies to reduce barriers, strengthen relationships, increase participation, and address systemic issues. We are currently accepting applications to fill these two vacancies. (note: filled in 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:​

May 9 - 10, 2023

July 11 - 12, 2023

Learn more about our public workshops, the upcoming schedule, and registration details.

4. The Commission and the community

  • Bow Valley Workplace Inclusion Champions Celebration 2022: On November 8, 2022, Emmanuel Owusu, Director of Complaints Management, participated in a panel discussion at the Bow Valley Workplace Inclusion Champions Celebration 2022 in Canmore. The event brought together local businesses, human resources professionals, and other members of the community to celebrate and promote inclusive workplaces in the Bow Valley region and beyond. The Practical Workplace Accommodations for Inclusive Workplaces panel discussion provided practical examples of accommodation to support employers who are seeking to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Mr. Owusu provided information on key human rights considerations, including protected areas and grounds, the duty to accommodate, and best practices in creating meaningful workplace diversity and inclusion.

  • Dignity Forum Human Rights Conference: On October 22, 2022, Dr. Evaristus A. Oshionebo, interim Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, joined the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, and a former Chief of the Alberta Human Rights Commission to discuss the different structures of each organization, the strengths and challenges they face, and the opportunities for change.


Other news

Disability advocate expands office to Calgary

On November 17, 2022, the Government of Alberta announced the expansion of the Office of the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities to Calgary. Due to increased service demands, the additional office location means more staff, greater accessibility, and easier access to services for more people with disabilities. Contact the Office of the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities to learn more.


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