The Lynch List, 26-Jan-2011

First: While it would be irresponsible to draw a causal connection, it is interesting to note what might happen should Human Rights Commissions remove the rights of landlords to know about their tenant’s past criminal history:

A man at the centre of a murder-suicide in Dartmouth last week kicked, punched and threatened his girlfriend during a December 2000 robbery that netted him $80 and a two-year prison sentence.

It wasn’t the first prison time for violence doled out to Patrick Lee McGrath, who committed suicide either Thursday or Friday after killing another tenant at the Dartmouth Non-Profit Housing Society’s six-unit building at 7 Galaxy Ave.

His violent past didn’t keep him from getting a subsidized apartment because the society doesn’t do criminal background checks on prospective tenants.

“We don’t ask that question,” Bruce Hetherington, the society’s volunteer chairman of the board, said Monday.

In a telephone interview in which he cited conversations his staff had had with the Residential Tenancies Board earlier in the day, Hetherington said the Residential Tenancies Act allows them to ask potential tenants if they have a criminal record, but the society chooses not to do so in order to avoid discriminating against people who do have a record.

“Even drinking and driving is (worth) a criminal record, and then we would be picking and choosing,” Hetherington said. “We’re not allowed to. It becomes a Canadian Human Rights Commission (issue).”

Hetherington is wrong on two counts – the CHRC doesn’t govern landlord-tenant relations, the provincial commission does. And the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act does allow citizens to discriminate on the basis of criminal record. However, many provinces forbid criminal record checks (BC and Ontario in employment) and opportunistic politicans are ready to add more grounds of discrimination for a few votes. In addition, human rights commissions and tribunals are under a mandate to read their legislation as liberally as possible, which entitles them to expand definitions beyond the realm of common sense. In order to avoid any sort of complaint, landlords and employers often feel compelled to go far beyond the Code, imperiling the safety of their tenants and employees.

Second: A PEI teacher has filed a human rights complaint, alleging that racism, and not his criminal charges for assault (which were overturned on acquittal), led to his firing.

Third: A human rights complaint that alleged differential treatment of a Catholic family by hospital staff was dismissed, thank goodness. But the specter of discrimination that this complaint raises is quite real – that as religion is becoming more and more reviled and discarded by both the public and the state, the sensitivities of religious persons who spend their last days in a hospital or other public facility will be taken into account less and less. Better to start saving for private palliative care…

Fourth: Roy Green on freedom of expression, and Jennifer Lynch’s reaction to it…

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2 Responses to The Lynch List, 26-Jan-2011

  1. Kevin says:

    Re Criminal records checks. The Ontario and BC Commissions don’t forbid them. The requirement is just that they be demonstrably relevant to the job being applied for.

  2. In both codes, it is forbidden, with exceptions; same as discrimination on the basis of sex, age, or marital status.

    With the onus (and cost obligation) on the employer to prove that the requirement is demonstrably justified, there are very few instances in which they are asked. In my experience in BC, the habit of the BCHRT to interpret the Code as liberal as possible has deterred anyone from requesting criminal record checks unless stipulated by law.

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