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The Canadian Charter of Rights provides basic rights that are available to all Canadians. s. 15 specifically states that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

In addition to the Charter, there is further protection or actions available to victims of discrimination. There is international customary law including the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. There are the courts, through a tort or the civil process. Moreover, if the discrimination occurred by an employer, then there are legal arguments available within the Employment Law area, including whether an employer discriminated an employee in such areas as (not exhaustive):

  • race;
  • colour;
  • age;
  • ancestry/origin;
  • gender;
  • disability;
  • sexual harassment;
  • pregnancies; and
  • illnesses (including drug and alcohol).

There are also arguments of:

  • employer not fulfilling its duty to accommodate; and
  • whether there is a bona fide occupational requirement.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission is another forum for victims to utilize. Below is some important information in making a Human Rights Complaint to the Commission.

Limitation Date:
In Alberta, you have one year from the date at which an incident occurred to file a Human Rights Complaint.

Who Can Make a Complaint?
You can make a Human Rights Complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission if you have a reasonable basis to believe that someone has discriminated against you. In addition, you can make a Complaint if:

  • someone has retaliated against you for making a human rights complaint, or being a witness for a complaint; and
  • someone with a purpose to hurt you has made a false human rights complaint against you.

How to Make a Complaint?
In writing to the Human Rights Commission; in the prescribed form.

Areas of Discrimination (Not Exhaustive):

  • employment practises;
  • employment applications or advertisements;
  • tenancy;
  • equal pay;
  • goods, services, accommodations or facilities;
  • statements, publications, notices, signs, symbols, emblems, or other representations;
  • memberships;
  • race;
  • colour;
  • ancestry;
  • place or origin;
  • religious beliefs;
  • gender;
  • age;
  • physical disability;
  • mental disability;
  • marital status;
  • family status;
  • source of income; and
  • sexual orientation.

The Process:
The Complaint can be withdrawn at any of these steps.
1.         The Commission will review your Complaint and determine if it can accept it;
2.         The Respondent, or other party, will be notified and receive a copy of the Complaint and have a chance to respond;
3.         There will be a voluntary conciliation – the Commission assigns a conciliator to try help and resolve the differences between the parties;
4.         The Commission assigns an investigator to gather information related to the Complaint, consult with the parties on the results of the investigation, and assess whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with the complaint process;

If there is a reasonable basis to proceed with the Complaint, the Commission will ask the parties to reach a settlement; and
If the investigation does not show a reasonable basis to proceed with the complaint process, then the complaint is dismissed.

The Director of the Commission may discontinue a Complaint if the Director believes that the complainant has refused to accept a fair/reasonable settlement offer – this can be appealed; and
Last, the matter is referred to the Human Rights panel for a hearing.

*** The following is only for informational purposes and is not legal advice. There are a number of potential avenues and options available to victims. Therefore, it is very important to consult a lawyer, to discuss your specific case. Sanjiv Parmar is a former Crown Counsel with Alberta Justice and is a human rights lawyer in Calgary. He is also a member of the Pro Bono Law Alberta roster for human rights cases.  Parmar Law practises in child welfare, child representation, immigration law, refugee claims, family law, criminal law, employment law, human rights law, protection orders, and appeals. We also speak in many different languages including Punjabi, Hindi, Tagalog, Korean, Romanian, and Spanishi. ***

 Sanjiv Parmar - Parmar Law - www.parmarlaw.ca