March 21, 2023

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 - March 21, 2023

In this issue:

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is March 21

Human Rights Case Law: Recent Tribunal decisions

  1. Recent Tribunal decisions
  2. Summary of recent Tribunal decisions

Commission News

  1. The Commission mourns the loss of local human rights educator and friend
  2. 2021-22 Annual Report now available
  3. External review completed
  4. Revised human rights guide
  5. Connect with us on LinkedIn!
  6. Alberta 50 for 50 campaign
  7. Indigenous art contest results
  8. Upcoming Human Rights in the Workplace public workshops
  9. The Commission and the community

Other News

  1. Lighthouse: Casting light on symbols of hate
  2. More funding for students with disabilities

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is March 21

Graphic from the United Nations showing groups of diverse people against a blue background under the white hashtag #FIGHTracism

March 21 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD). Each year, IDERD serves as a reminder of the ongoing need to address racial discrimination in our communities.

The United Nations 2023 theme focuses on the urgency of combatting racism and racial discrimination. This issue remains urgent even after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 75 years ago.

Racism and racial discrimination continue to impact Albertans. As we recognize International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we are reminded that we are all responsible for taking an active role in anti-racism.

Today, the Commission encourages all Albertans to raise their voices against race-based hate and intolerance in Alberta. We can all educate ourselves, speak out against racism, and work to upend systemic racism. Our collective efforts to eliminate racial discrimination in our communities, institutions, and systems will help build a society that is equitable for all.

To learns ways to take action and stand up against racism and discrimination in Alberta, join the #AB50for50 campaign.

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 case law free of charge on the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website.

2. Summary of Recent Tribunal Decisions

Intent not necessary to establish an adverse impact

Mitchell v Edmonton Public School Board, 2023 AHRC 16 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, February 2, 2023)

The complainant was a teacher who went on medical leave for a mental disability after experiencing workplace harassment. The harassment was time-barred by the limitation period in section 20 of the Alberta Human Rights Act and the only relevant time for this complaint was while the complainant was on medical leave. The respondent approved her medical leave and accepted her medical notes, but the complainant alleged that how the employer communicated with her caused further psychological injury. In particular, the complainant alleged that a single phone call with an ability consultant and a later meeting, called while the complainant was on sick leave, were harassment. The Tribunal found that the actions were not harassment and did not otherwise constitute an adverse impact or treatment under the second stage of the Moore test.

The Tribunal considered the scope and nature of the term "adverse impact." The complainant alleged she was a "thin skull" complainant and relied on civil litigation authorities about causation. Causation here was not relevant and did not meet the test for prima facie discrimination.

Interim decision denying a request for a production order

Melnyk v RBC Dominion Securities Inc., 2023 AHRC 5 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, January 11, 2023)

The complainant made broad and serious allegations of bad faith for which there was no existing supporting information in the record. He requested all records, emails, and internal and external communications about the respondent's attempts to serve investment clients he had served during his employment, both before and after his termination. The Tribunal outlined a non-exhaustive list of factors when considering production orders. The requested information must:

  1. be arguably relevant because it has a rational probative connection to the issues before the Tribunal,
  2. be particularized and not overly broad,
  3. not be a "fishing expedition"
  4. not cause undue prejudice to the other parties or to third parties,
  5. and be in the interests of justice.

The production request in Melnyk did not meet this threshold because it was overly broad, was likely to cause prejudice to the respondent because of the onerous nature of the search, and appeared to be based on speculation. There was also an issue about prejudice to third parties (because of the records related to third-party financial interest) and prejudice to the process (because the far-reaching search was likely to further delay the proceedings).​

Discrimination found in the area of tenancy on the grounds of mental and physical disability

Stewart v Jordan, 2023 AHRC 4 (Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, January 11, 2023)

The complainant leased the basement suite of a rental property in Edmonton, owned by the respondent. The complainant alleged that the respondent discriminated against her when he refused to accommodate her mental and physical disabilities by failing to properly deal with her noise complaints and when he effectively ended her tenancy by raising her rent to a rate that he knew she could not afford. The respondent denied that he discriminated against the complainant. He asserted that he was not aware of any connection between the complainant's noise complaints and her disabilities. The respondent further asserted that the complainant's disabilities were not a factor in his decision to raise the complainant's rent.

The central issue at the hearing was whether the respondent had a duty to inquire how the complainant's disabilities were being affected. The Chair found that by not conducting any real investigation into the complainant's extensive noise complaints, the respondent failed to demonstrate that he accommodated the complainant's disabilities to the point of undue hardship. The complainant was awarded the sum of $10,000 in general damages for injury to dignity.

Commission News

1. The Commission mourns the loss of local human rights educator and friend

Hilda Andresen, human rights champion, educator, colleague, and friend, passed away on February 2, 2023.

From 2016-2022, Hilda facilitated human rights workshops for the Alberta Human Rights Commission, explaining the connections between human rights legislation and its application to workplaces across Alberta. With a practical and direct style, she explained the nuances of human rights law to many provincial organizations and local businesses, as well as to countless individuals. In the truest sense of these words, she was a trusted guide and educator to anyone seeking information about human rights, equality, diversity, and inclusion.

The Commission will greatly miss Hilda's enthusiasm for helping individuals and organizations better understand human rights principles and create workplaces free from discrimination, where everyone is respected and included. We will remember Hilda for her selflessness, dedication, and persistence in promoting and defending the human rights of Albertans.

As Hilda said, "It's important to be who you are - but as part of one people."

To learn more, read Hilda's obituary.

2. 2021-22 Annual Report is now available

Tabled on December 12, 2022, the Commission's 2021-22 Annual Report is now available for viewing.

3. External Review completed

As part of the Alberta Human Rights Commission's Indigenous Human Rights Strategy, we conducted an organization-wide external review to identify areas in which the Commission may be unknowingly perpetuating systemic discrimination against Indigenous Peoples through our programs, procedures, and operations. This review was conducted by an independent, Indigenous-led third party. The reviewer used an in-depth approach to develop an understanding of the systemic issues that may exist within the Commission and practices that may have negative impacts on Indigenous Peoples.

The report highlights that Indigenous individuals do not access the Commission's programs and services due to a lack of awareness of the Commission, accessibility challenges, cumbersome processes, language barriers, and fear of being re-victimized or re-traumatized, and makes recommendations for improving our programs and services.

Implementing the recommendations from the report will improve outcomes for Indigenous Peoples when accessing the human rights system, as well as for other marginalized or disadvantaged groups who potentially experience similar barriers in accessing our programs and services. This report can additionally serve as a guide for other groups who are seeking to address systemic discrimination within their organizations and take meaningful actions to support Indigenous people in Alberta and beyond.

With support from the Indigenous Advisory Circle, we have begun reviewing and implementing a number of the report's recommendations, in particular:

  • making the complaint process easier to navigate,
  • engaging with organizations that support Indigenous people with navigating the human rights system, including educating community navigators about the Commission's complaint process,
  • making our systems more culturally relevant,
  • improving our communications by finding new ways to better reach Indigenous people and communities,
  • enhancing staff training, and
  • expanding our reach to new Indigenous groups, organizations, and communities.

We will continue to work with the Circle on implementing these recommendations.

4. Revised human rights guide

The Commission is pleased to share the recent publication of the human rights guide, Human rights, pregnancy, and parental rights and responsibilities (formerly, "Rights and responsibilities related to pregnancy, childbirth and adoption"). This newly revised version reflects the 2015 and 2018 amendments to the Alberta Human Rights Act, current case law (including many new relevant Alberta cases), and Commission policies and guidelines at the time of updating.

This guide explains the provisions of the Act as they apply to pregnancy, breastfeeding, maternity and parental leave, adoption, and childcare obligations. It also provides resources for finding more information about maternity leave and parental leave, which includes leave for adoptive parents.

Stay tuned for more information on an upcoming webinar on the guide.

5. Connect with us on LinkedIn!

Logo for LinkedIn

In an effort to connect Albertans and other key stakeholders, the Commission has launched a LinkedIn account. In doing so, we aim to better reach a variety of audiences, including service providers, employees and employers, human resources professionals, industry associations, advocates, academics, small- and medium-sized businesses, unions, and the labour and employment sector more broadly.

In the months ahead, we hope to further expand our social media presence, increasing our reach to other community stakeholders.

Be sure to follow the Commission on LinkedIn for regular updates about human rights in the workplace and beyond. You are welcome to engage with our posts by sharing, liking, and commenting

6. Alberta 50 for 50 Campaign

AHRC anniversary logo. Gold foil coloured number 50 circled with this text in blue: 50 Years: Upholding Human Rights In Alberta

The Commission has officially launched the #AB50for50 campaign, an initiative encouraging all Albertans to spend a minimum of 50 minutes in 2023 expanding their knowledge and understanding of human rights. To help Albertans figure out where to begin, we have put together a campaign webpage with a comprehensive list of human rights resources, including engaging videos, reports, webinars, books, events, and more. This list will make it easy for Albertans of all ages to find and participate in #AB50for50 campaign activities.

The Commission developed its 50 for 50 campaign based on consultation with community organizations across Alberta's vast human rights sector. Together with our stakeholders, we hope to inspire Albertans to take action towards creating a culture of human rights.

Participate in the campaign in a number of ways, including:

  • Reading a book
  • Watching a documentary or film
  • Volunteering at a local organization that promotes human rights causes
  • Attending a conference or webinar
  • Hosting a fundraiser for a human rights cause
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Taking a course
  • Hosting a human rights event at your school
  • Reading a report
  • Listening to a TED Talk or lecture
  • Attending a human rights workshop
  • Learning about the work of a human rights organization
  • Speaking with family and friends

A​s you take part in 50 for 50 initiatives throughout 2023, please be sure to let us know by using the hashtag #AB50for50 on social media. You can also tag friends, family, and colleagues to challenge them to join you in the campaign.

7. Indigenous art contest results

The circle of life and within are the four directions and the iconic symbolism of Alberta's rich and diverse Indigenous Peoples and communities. Arrowheads on either side indicate the commonality the groups share, sunrise to sunset.

In 2022, the Commission invited designs​ for a graphic image, which embodied the Indigenous Human Rights Strategy and represented our commitment to working with Indigenous people in addressing discrimination in Alberta.

Derek Fisher, an Edmonton-based Cree and Saulteaux graphic designer and illustrator, submitted the winning design. He describes the artwork as representing "the circle of life and within are the four directions and the iconic symbolism of Alberta's rich and diverse Indigenous Peoples and communities. They are coming together with the province. The arrowheads indicate the commonality the groups share, sunrise to sunset." Derek further incorporated our logo "to signify partnership and give legitimacy to the Commission's efforts.

Vennessa Cheran Plotnikoff, from Waterhen Lake First Nation, submitted the runner-up design. The artwork depicts two feathers in the colours of the medicine wheel, representing the four directions and the importance of harmony and balance.

8. 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 date:

June 6 - 7, 2023

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

9. The Commission and the community

  • In recognition of Truth and Reconciliation Day, Commission staff participated in customized, on the land Indigenous training with Elder Doreen Spence on October 6, 2022. It was an immersive experience that provided in-depth learning about traditional native teachings and Indigenous culture and spirituality, and how to apply those teachings to the Commission's work.
  • On February 13, 2023, the Government of Alberta awarded Cam Stewart, Policy & Program Consultant with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, the Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee Medal for his outstanding contributions serving Alberta, his community, and the Ministry of Justice. In 2022, the Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee Medal (Alberta) was created to mark the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty's Accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. As such, this is a one-time program to recognize recipient commitments and contributions during the Queen's Platinum Jubilee year.

    Photo of Cam Stewart, consultant for the Alberta Human Rights Commission standing with Alberta Minister Mike Ellis.

  • On February 17, 2023, as part of February's Black History Month, Commission staff attended a learning session hosted by Cynthia Okafor on "How to be Anti-Racist." Ms. Okafor is a renowned expert in anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The session covered topics such as the history and manifestation of racism in the Canadian and Alberta context, impact of racism, and allyship and the performative pitfalls. Attendees undertook a self-reflection activity to determine where they are on their journey to becoming anti-racist.
  • Throughout February and March, as part of the Commission's efforts to improve accessibility.
    • Deaf and Hear Alberta hosted a workshop on advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Participants reflected on unconscious biases, learned about Deaf and hard-of-hearing perspectives and the responsibilities employers and business owners have to their teams and consumers, and identified ways to implement communication access for employees and clientele.
    • Public Library Services (Alberta Municipal Affairs) led a series of internal workshops on creating accessible files using a variety of Microsoft Office Suite tools. Staff learned how to incorporate accessibility features into their files, focusing especially on formatting features so that their files do not rely solely on visual cues.

Other News

1. Lighthouse: casting light on symbols of hate

Lighthouse logo. Graphic of a white coastal lighthouse against a blue background.    On January 6, 2023, the City of Edmonton (in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League) launched Lighthouse, a technology solution designed to help identify and combat the spread of hate symbols and messages in our communities by tracking and analyzing the proliferation of these symbols. Lighthouse consists of a phone application for data collection, a web application for image labeling and analysis, and a dashboard that displays spatial and temporal patterns in the labeled images.

2. More funding for students with disabilities

On January 23, 2023, the Government of Alberta implemented new changes to the Grant for Students with Disabilities, resulting in an additional 5,200 students able to receive disability funding. The changes include expanding supports for students with disabilities to include those with persistent and prolonged disabilities.


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