A big List today; enjoy it ’cause you won’t get one on Friday…
First: The CHRT is in “turmoil”, says a Postmedia article. Several lawyers have expressed dismay at the slow pace of cases moving through the Tribunal, blaming the delays on staff departures, internal issues, or several key positions not being filled.
As first reported by the Citizen in January, more than half the tribunal’s staff has left for other public service jobs or has been sidelined by stress since the appointment of Shirish Chotalia, a Calgary lawyer named to the post by the Harper government in late 2009.
According to the Public Service Alliance of Canada, five employees — roughly a quarter of the staff — have filed harassment-related complaints against Chotalia.
Those interviewed also complain about several changes that the incoming chair has made to the process, changes that make things a little more difficult for the complainants and get some complaints dismissed faster. And that’s a bad thing? Oh wait, these are human rights lawyers and public sector unions…
Second: Many human rights decisions have unintended consequences. Gee, ya think?
For example, the CHRC – in a decision that will unintentionally make it more difficult for young men and women with families to find good employment – awarded Fiona Johnstone over $35,000 in damages, plus lost wages and benefits because her employer would not bend over backwards to accommodate her request for a specific work schedule after she returned from maternity leave…
In effect, Johnstone wanted to be insulated from the natural consequences of her own life-choices. And, more significantly, she wanted the Canadian taxpayers, her fellow employees, and men and women of similar circumstance to foot the bill for her life-choices. So, she complained to the CHRC…
However, as the old adage goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Since the CBSA is a government agency, any costs awarded against it will ultimately be paid by Canadian taxpayers. In addition, Johnstone’s fellow employees will shoulder some of the burden. Since Johnstone was unwilling to work undesirable hours, her fellow employees had to pick up the slack and work those hours in her place. Granting Johnstone a greater degree of flexibility and choice means that other CBSA employees suffered a corresponding lesser degree of flexibility and choice.
Third: The BCHRT may have had the wool pulled over their eyes in this case. A woman had a consensual relationship with her boss, and then complained to the tribunal when her breakup with him led to demeaning text messages, and a reduction of hours. $30,000 later, I’d like to know if this “office flirt” (who called her male colleagues “boy toys”) used the relationship as a means to get the job and an increase in hours to begin with.
Either way, I can’t bring myself to feel bad for anyone who mixes work with romance. It simply never ends well.
Fourth: More on the crucifix and prayers at Saguenay’s city hall:
The crucifix is staying at Quebec’s National Assembly, despite this ruling, says the Gazette.
A letter-writer says exactly what I’ve been thinking:
[The Tribunal] has handsomely awarded atheist Alain Simoneau $30,000 for asserting his right to the freedom of being an atheist while denying others their freedom of religion to say a prayer for guidance in conducting business on behalf of their taxpaying citizens.
Fifth: Howard Levitt weighs in on the Telfer case. Specifically, he comments on the credentials of the Tribunal members handling this case. As we all know, the background of most human rights tribunal members are better suited to be sitting in the complainant’s legal counsel chairs, not the judge’s seat:
In past columns, I have decried the inherent unfairness of the tribunal process. All complaints of discrimination, regardless of their lack of merit, qualify for a hearing. The employer is generally extorted to offer a settlement to avoid the greater expense of the hearing. Even if the employer is successful, they cannot recover those costs.
Less noticed is that the vice-chairs making these decisions are mainly drawn from the ranks of advocacy groups and union lawyers.
The profile of Bhabha, for example, shows a background of representing numerous public interest organizations and NGO’s and, specifically, clients who are disadvantaged by disability, race, gender and/ or poverty in issues related to employment as well as working in human rights advocacy in Israel/ Palestine and South Africa. He has a Masters from Harvard and is an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. David Wright, chairman of the tribunal, was formerly employed as a lawyer acting for trade unions and has no record of representing management.
Sixth: Okay, I’m sure you’re sick of hearing this, but so am I. Another Tribunal decision has been shredded by the courts and sent back for reconsidering. The federal court found that there might be a danger in requiring Air Canada to have octogenarians pilot their jets. The Tribunal has been asked to reconsider whether age can be a bona fide occupational requirement in safety-critical situations like piloting a 747. Thanks for the injection of brains, feds.