Well, it’s that time again, for me to talk about all the people who’ve been talking about Jennifer Lynch and her wondrous technicolour commission, with gratuitous mention of the various other commissions and commissioners currently mucking about in the Dominion.
First off, Barbara Hall’s 2008/09 report for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, recently released, receives coverage from a number of sources. Diana Mehta, via the Toronto Star: Discrimination in rental housing focus of Human Rights report:
Subtle discrimination in Ontario’s rental housing sector over race, age or social standing will be among the problem areas targeted in a new housing policy this fall from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the chief commissioner said today.
In its first annual report released since widening its mandate to focus on broader societal issues rather than just individual complaints, the commission found that the “issue of discrimination in housing kept coming up,” said Barbara Hall.
It was the first time anyone has focused on the human rights component of rental housing, Hall said, adding the problems were provincewide.
One the one hand, healthy seniors complained they found it hard to secure accommodation because their landlords feared they would require additional assistance.
At the other end of the spectrum students griped about the tough time they had snagging decent accommodations because of landlords reluctant to disrupt the ambience of a mature community.
The commission plans to release a new housing policy in early October which can be used to guide landlords and tenants alike.
“There may be some tools for people who face discrimination in housing to get rid of barriers using the human rights process,” said Hall.
Housing discrimination amid a tough economy is an issue of increasing concern for many.
“The report is showing the pain is not being shared equally. Some groups are bearing a bigger burden,” said Michael Shapcott, director of affordable housing at the Wellesley Institute, an independent policy think tank.
Shapcott said seniors, people of colour and those with physical and mental health issues are among those who find it hardest to secure a decent place to live.
More coverage from CNW Group, Jonathan Jenkins for the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Star, All Headline News, and Raveena Aulakh for the Toronto Star. Rather more critical coverage from Closet Conservative and Scaramouche, who also had some more to say here.
Second, Mihad Fahmi writes, in The Cornwall Standard Freeholder: Minority rights swimming in quandary:
My daughter recently pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to take her younger brother to the moms and tots swim class because of my hijab.
Her comment instantly got my back up, not only because of the conclusion she had reached, but also due to the matter-of-fact manner in which she had stated it.
No doubt, it’s not easy to remain an active swimmer once a woman wears the hijab, but my bottom-line message to my daughter was that it’s not impossible.
Good thing she doesn’t read the newspaper yet. If she did, she would have come to me the very next morning and asked why the Muslim woman in France wasn’t allowed to swim in a public pool.
Carole, a French Muslim woman, had used public pools in the past, wearing a swimsuit, known as the burquini, which reveals only her face, hands and feet. Recently, however, she was denied entry into a pool near Paris, being told that her swimwear did not meet the pool’s regulations.
According to an official in charge of public pools in the region, Carole was turned away based on France’s public health standards.
Carole has said she will fight the pool’s rules based on human rights grounds. Critics have cited this as another example of minorities using the discrimination card unreasonably. A rule is a rule, goes the simplistic argument, and Carole needs to choose whether she will use the pool and abide by the rule or walk away with her hijab.
Just last week, Jennifer Lynch, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, told the Canadian Bar Association that human rights commissions and tribunals in Canada are under an aggressive attack by conservative critics.
She appealed to the country’s lawyers and legal academics to defend the role of such commissions and tribunals in upholding the rights of society’s most vulnerable.
Part of defending such a role is shedding light on the discriminatory obstacles minority groups continue to face.
But here’s the quandary.
On the one hand, the case for human rights commissions and tribunals is strengthened as the public becomes more aware of cases such as Carole’s, but with this increased visibility, it becomes easier for opponents to suggest that minorities are playing victim and wasting society’s resources.
Mihad Fahmy is a lawyer in London, Ont.
Third, Dean Tester writes in Always Right that: ‘Professional complainer’ wins human rights complaint:
A self-described “professional complainer” has won a $30,000 settlement at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal after claiming that her former employer fired her because she was depressed.
I’m not sure which is more absurd: someone firing an employee because they were depressed, or that someone thinks that their depression is why they were fired. But the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has decided that evidently, both are true.
Yet again, the human rights tribunals show how incredibly flawed they are. The complainant, Kimberley Bertrend, barely did any work at the office. She was threatening to quit if she wasn’t transferred to a different branch. She sent rude e-mails to her bosses and had a disrespectful attitude at work.
Despite this, her bosses offered her a new job at a new branch, as she requested. But the new offer wasn’t a salary position and her hours weren’t guaranteed. Bertrend snapped and stopped coming into work. She was asked to resign, and she refused. So she was let go.
To be fair to Bertrend, she was depressed. And her employers could have been more delicate in handling the situation. But it is very clear that depression was not the reason she was let go.
So why was she awarded $30,000 from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal?
Simple reason: because they are absurd.