If you’re getting rid of something…

I have a couple of friends who are convinced Canada should do away with the Canadian Human Rights Commisison (which only really deals with discrimination in situations concering federally regulated institutions). Or the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. Or both. I don’t think my friends are against human rights. I don’t think they believe that discrimination based on race, culture, religion, or sexuality is a *good* thing. I think that some of my friends are feeling that the actions of bodies like the Human Rights Commissions are a detriment to everyone who *isn’t* a minority or special interest group.

The Human Rights Commission does important work. Unfortunately, you can put spin on anything to make it sound ridiculous. Two examples: In Saskatchewan, a civil servant marriage commissioner was taken to task for refusing to perform a same-sex marriage, which is legal in the province. In BC, a comedian was taken to task over some comments he made during a performance.

I think what bothers some people about the HRC is that the party who lodges a complaint does not have to pay for the investigation/resulting commission costs, but the party charged does have to pay for their own defense. I don’t know much about the *legal* system in Canada, so I can’t tell you how common that kind of thing is. Some people think the HRC goes too far, and infringes on the rights of the respondents; they feel the HRC is trying to tell us what to think.

It’s clear to me…abundantly clear to me that we need the Human Rights Commission. My friend should be able to go to work and not have to listen to someone accusing her of being a ‘pinko communist tree-hugger idiot’ just because the people she works with don’t agree with socialist, left-leaning politics…sure, there ought to be (and there are) provisions for when things are said in jest, and clearly, my friend isn’t taking her co-workers (who’ve said much worse than that) to the HRC. Or when a different friend is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and hears one of the intake receptionist/nurses say that she just tells most of the Indians in her office to go home and sleep it off before their appointments…why is it okay for a civil employee to refuse to marry a gay couple? Anyway. My point is that the HRC (at both levels) is still needed, and if a straight, employed, white, Christian male has his rights infringed upon…if he is denied a job because of he is straight, white, Christian, and/or male, or if he is denied services, then he can also launch a complaint.

But that’s not my point. My point is this:

If you’re talking about getting rid of something or making something work better, then why the hell not do something about the bloody Parole board? Bad enough that they agreed to let convicted murderer Colin Thatcher leave his two-star federal resort, but now they grand a FULL EFFING PARDON to convicted CHILD MOLESTER and SERIAL SEXUAL ABUSER Graham James?

You don’t remember who Graham James is?

Graham James was the Junior Hockey coach who routinely sexually abused and molested the children he was coaching. In Saskatchewan, Graham James terrorised and abused young boys who played for the Swift Current Broncos and the Moose Jaw Warriors. Sheldon Kennedy was one of the first hockey players to go public with the news of what his coach had done to him.

What’s worse, James was pardoned THREE YEARS AGO, and the only reason this is hitting the news now is that one of his former victims contacted the Winnipeg Police. In most cases where a convicted criminal is pardoned, the victims and those with a vested interest in the case are informed. For some reason, in James’ case, nobody seems to have known about it, or no one chose to go public with the information. I must admit, I am utterly confused how a convicted child molester and sexual predator can be PARDONED by the Parole Board.

A pardon is not parole. A pardon is basically wiping clean the slate. Now, when the crime involves a sex crime, that information is still available…for people doing a certain kind of criminal records check. I can’t imagine what James’ lawyer is being paid, but it must be an impressive amount. Because I think that what the National Parole Board has done is horrific. At the *very* most, James should qualify for supervised parole. But a pardon? Sorry guys. You got this one totally wrong.

cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.


  1. Supervised parole? He was convicted, sentenced, did his time and was released. What has parole to do after he has completed his sentence?

    1. Good point.
      If all he got was a three-year sentence and he did his time, then sure, parole wouldn’t come in to it at all. But a PARDON? I think a pardon is pretty disgraceful, particularly considering the nature of his crime.

  2. “I think what bothers some people about the HRC is that the party who lodges a complaint does not have to pay for the investigation/resulting commission costs, but the party charged does have to pay for their own defense.”

    In our justice system, the victim doesn’t pay for court and investigative costs, why should they when it comes to protecting their human rights? It does kind of go against the whole innocent until proven guilty thing in that you are penalized financially before you have even been proven guilty (or innocent as the case may be). I have to wonder, though, are these same people who are concerned about this also concerned about it when it comes to people accused of criminal actions?

    1. If you’re charged with a crime, though, you can get a legal aid lawyer. The HRC makes no such provisions.

      1. Not if you make more than about 15K a year. Legal Aid is notorious for not being available to the vast majority of people who need it.

        1. So…Joseph Heller had a hand in this, then. You only qualify for legal representation if you actually can’t afford it. But if you can’t afford it, you probably don’t qualify. I mean seriously, 15K a year? When I worked for Habitat for Humanity, the ‘poverty line’ was set at $18K/year. How the hell can someone making $20K/year with three kids to support afford legal representation? Do they make provisions for that? I mean, is the $15K per year a hard-and-fast rule? Do they take into account things like dependents and whether you’re receiving student loans?

          1. It varies between the provinces, as each one sets its own rules. But the basic idea is that unless you are well below the established poverty line, you don’t count. Allowances are made for children in your care, but that is really about it.

            And let’s face it, the average person can not afford a lengthy and protracted court battle, as the costs can mount up pretty quickly. Hell, even a basic small claims court appearance will set you back about $2,000 – which is why lawyers don’t see a lot of small claims courts.

            In Nova Scotia, there was a complainant by the name of Lindsay Willow. She was a teacher accused by her school of sexual conduct with a female student. She got fired, her career ruined. She fought it, through the NS Human Rights Commission and won. She had her own legal counsel.

            She won her case, and was awarded about 27K in damages. Her legal costs were in the 65K range. So she fought like hell to clear her name and be made whole after getting fired almost completely because the school thought a) she was a lesbian and b) she’d interferred with a student. NOTE: The student adamantly, immediately and repeatedly denied anything had ever happened.

            So much for justice huh? She won, and lost over $40,000. How’s that for a kick in the teeth.

            Frickin’ lawyers.

  3. It also doesn’t help that the HRC is being filled by one guy. Seriously – one person is responsible for 90% of the complaints that are heard. Oh, and he’s a former staffer. Add in a complete lack of any sort of appeals process, and you’re pretty much screwed from the minute you’re put in front of an HRC hearing.

    The MacLean’s articles made for some interesting reading on just how things work around there.

    Do we need it? Yes. Does it need to be seriously overhauled? Darn tootin’.

    1. Are you talking about the federal HRC or the provincial one? They’re not *all* run by just one guy?

      I’m not surprised it needs fixing. But getting rid of it? Which is the better request?

    2. I assume BPM IV is referring to Richard Warman, who by anyone’s standards is a bit zealous. He’s pretty much made it his career to find and expose hate on the internet.

      Without saying that I agree or disagree with what he’s doing / has done, the suggestion that he is responsible for 90% of the complaints that are heard is not accurate. He’s been involved in (according to his detractors only, no official word from him or the CHRC) 26 complaints in the last 10 years. I can assure you that the CHRC has heard a lot more than 35ish complainst in the last 10 years.

  4. Unfortunately Ceno, your friend’s pretty much unprotected by the Human Rights Code – “political belief” or somesuch is not a prohibited ground of discrimination under s.2(m.01) in Saskatchewan, and “creed” (which *is* a prohibited ground) is explicitly defined as “religious creed”. The Code does protect freedom of expression but that doesn’t really have any enforcement mechanism. (That doesn’t mean they can fire people for being commie pinko tree-huggers, absent some other justification, of course, because that would likely be wrongful dismissal, but the Code and the Commission are limited to what’s in the legislation.)

    Unless your pal works directly for the federal government, in which case she could invoke the Charter of Rights and Freedoms directly.

    Then again I suppose being a Conservative might be protected, under mental disorder: “…a disorder of thought, perception, feelings or behaviour that impairs a person’s: (i) judgment;(ii) capacity to recognize reality…[snip]”

    The Sask Party’s potash projections alone seem to qualify…

    1. *snort*

      I mean, there’s freedom of expression, right? And I guess my friend’s boss is “allowed” to make fun of pinko commie tree hugging idiots, because that person can say whatever they want. And yeah, if she loses her job or if they actually fart around with her human rights, I’m sure she’d do something. I don’t think they will; I think my friend quite enjoys the laughs she gets at her co-workers’ expense, whether or not they know she’s laughing at them.

  5. So this is the argument that gets me about the HR code and its abolishment. And you kinda touched on it. Oh and in case you’re wondering, I heard this argument from my youngest daughter’s grandfather.

    The HR code should be abolished because it only benefits minority groups, and that is actually against the code itself since that means since it doesn’t benefit white people it then discriminates against them.

    I want you to just think about that for a while. Just kinda … soak that all up and enjoy it for a while.

    1. Yeah. I’ve heard the same or similar comments from other folks.

      I don’t really know what to say to that kind of thing (usually because at that point, I know I’m not going to change their minds) other than that the HRC benefits anyone who has been discriminated against in a detrimental way, regardless of their gender, their sexual orientation, their cultural or ‘racial’ heritage, or social status.

  6. OK…. I’ll weigh in on this one.

    The “doesn’t benefit able bodied white anglo-saxon males” argument comes up a lot. And that argument is completely without basis or merit. While it is pretty rare for a person who fits that characteristic to be discriminated against, it does happen, and they can file a complaint. Plain and simple. Federally, and in every single provincial jurisdiction. Absolutely 100%. The various Acts and Codes across the country all would accept those complaints. Happens all the time. Of course, it is a lot rarer than other types of discrimination, but it does happen, and it is investigated.

    The “person making the complaint doesn’t have to pay anything, but the alleged discriminator does” argument is also horse shit. The alleged discriminator doesn’t need to pay for anything either. Many choose to hire high priced lawyers to file their defenses, but you don’t have to be represented. Is it a good idea? Maybe. But all of the Tribunals and Boards across Canada which conduct preliminary investigations are all designed so as to be accessible to a lay person, not to a lawyer. The actual hearing – well, that’s another kettle of fish – and I strongly suggest to anyone that is going to be part of any legal hearing that they have legal counsel to protect their interests, but its still not required.

    Additionally, in most cases across the country, the HRC carries out an investigation prior to the matter being referred to an adjudicative body. Upward of 90% of the cases at most of those organizations do not go to a hearing… so its not like they are sending every single case to a hearing – the opposite is in fact true.

    And Melistress hit another nail on the head there as well… does a home robbery victim have to pay for a lawyer to have any chance at justice? Does a rape victim? Nope. Same thing applies here. Keep in mind again, this is almost always AFTER a thorough investigation has been done. Only if the HRC determines, based on its investigation, that the discrimination likely occurred and that it is in the public interest for a hearing to commence. Just like the police conduct an investigation long before any court proceeding happens in the criminal area.

    Now, to Ceno’s points about the pardon system… what I found interesting was that apparently +90% are granted. What the hell? What are the criteria for granting them? As a person who got a second chance in the criminal justice system, I am pleased that people are getting second chances, are being given the opportunity to put a single mistake behind them and move on with their lives. But 90% granted???? And a repeated, serial, sexual predator who took advantage of children under his charge????? What the hell? How can that possibly be justice? I would love to see the criteria upon which pardons are granted or denied. Might have to FOIPOP that just to get a better idea.

  7. Couple things I would also like to attach to this HRC thang.

    I, as a Status Indian, and of course my daughters, are technically outside the HRC. There is a line in it, section 31 or 32, can’t remember off the top of my head, that states that anything that is in the Indian Act that might be seen as a violation of the HRC is exempt from the HRC. This section has been challenged and a back and forth in the legal system has occured. It started with a case involving the ‘Can’t be an Indian drunk off the reserve’ law up in the Yukon, and has gone back and forth in all levels of the courts and has never been resolved. In fact the majority and dissenting opinions have been purposefully vague in regards to this section of the HRC.

    The unfortunate part of these decisions is that it is clear that the legal system has no desire to challange this section or deal with the fall out of either including or exempting First Nations people in the HRC. As it stands, the simple way to put it is this: As a Status Indian, the HRC does not apply or protect me from the government. Sure in private matters I would be covered but in regards to dealing with the government, nothing.

    1. Actually Coyote, I have good news for you then. Bill C-21 got royal assent back in 2008 and section 67 of the Canada Human Rights Act (the part that said that those persons under the auspices of the Indian Act could not file complaints against their bands nor against the federal government) was repealed.

      So yes, you can file complaints against the feds now. There is still a planning and implementation phase for any complaints agaisnt bands (the amendment allowed for a three year period to work out the issues with the bands themselves) but that is almost complete as well.

      So… good news I hope?

      1. Yeah, C-21. Good and bad news. See it has been implimented, but I’m not sure if it has ever seen use within the legal system. As well, from what I understand a great deal of bands opposed its implimentation, particularly since it is somewhat attached to C-31, which is still being fought about. What C-21 did not repeal is the wording of the Indian Act which still gets to overtly interfer with both individual and bands of First Nations people. With no recourse.

  8. Well, the bands are concerned of course… and in a lot of cases for very good reason. Where once upon a time they didn’t have to worry about the consequences of discriminating (say for example against women) all of a sudden they do. That’s bound to make some of them very, very nervous, especially when you consider the politics of some of the bands.

    And yeah, C-31 has been problematic, especially as it really changed, to the point that even Aboriginal Law lawyers don’t understand it, the way that ancestry is determined, and band membership is granted or denied… its a mess, and not likely to change. But C-21 doesn’t really impact all the much on band membership, save as it relates to discriminatory practices with regard to the inclusion or exclusion of individuals from the band on discriminatory grounds.

    What I think we’ll see (based on my experiences) with C-21 are a lot of complaints against band members who have refused to employ women in certain roles, and a lot of family status complaints (i.e. John didn’t get hired because his father is Michael, and the band council doesn’t like Michael), as those are the most common concerns that crop up and can be dealt with by the commissions. Well, those and a giant flood of sexual harassment complaints of course. :(


    Just today there was an item on the news about how the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission should send cases that cannot be settled through mediation to the Court of Queen’s Bench rather than to a committee of appointed lawyers.

    It’s like I have a *tap in to the political something of the something-or-other!* Isn’t that CRAZY?

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