Category Archives: Human Rights

Great Law Event in Toronto, Canada! LOOKING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK: 40 YEARS OF RESISTANCE

LAW UNION

Join us on Saturday, March 16, 2013, for the Law Union of Ontario’s Annual Conference! 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Law Union, and this year’s conference will bring progressive legal and activist communities together to discuss an exciting and challenging series of issues. To register for a day of inspiring and provocative panels, workshops, and discussion click here: REGISTER

The conference will be held at Victoria College, on the University of Toronto campus. The address is 91 Charles Street, with the building just south of Charles. This facility is wheelchair accessible. Follow this link for a map of the exact location of the conference: http://map.utoronto.ca/building/501

Scroll down for the full schedule of panels and speakers.

CPD hours pending.

FRIDAY, MARCH 15TH: ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION AT THE TRANZAC

In honour of the Law Union’s 40th anniversary, join other conference-goers on the evening of Friday, March 15th, for a celebration with live music, drinks, reflections, and awards. This event will be held at the Tranzac, 292 Brunswick Avenue, Toronto, from 7:30 pm onwards. All are welcome!

CONFERENCE PROGRAM: MARCH 16TH
Victoria College

REGISTRATION: 8 AM

PANELS: 9 – 10:30 am

Envisioning the New Law Practice Program
Renatta Austin, Articling Student, City of Toronto
Elena Iosef, Osgoode Hall Legal and Literary Society
Janet Minor, Ministry of the Attorney General, Law Society Bencher

Deconstructing the Doctrine of Discovery
Tannis Nielsen, Artist and Educator

Mental Health and Justice: Three Unique Voices
Sarah Shartal
TBA

Working on the Margins: Perspectives on Migrant Work in Canada
Fay Faraday, Osgoode Hall Law School, Faraday Law
Kelly Botengan, Magkaisa Centre, Phillipine Women’s Centre
Evelyn Encalada, Justice for Migrant Workers

MORNING PLENARY: 10:45 am – 12:15 pm

Panels full of Women: 40 Years Later, Has Anything Changed?
Beth Symes, Symes Street & Millard LLP, Law Society Bencher
Janet Minor, Ministry of the Attorney General, Law Society Bencher
Jessica Wolfe, Legal Aid Ontario
Sharon Walker, Dykeman Dewirst O’Brien, LLP

PANELS: 1:30 – 3:00 pm

Resonance: Police Racial Profiling and Intelligence Gathering
Vickie McPhee, Rights Watch Network
TBA

Decolonizing Relationships: Treaties and Beyond
Diane Kelly, Former Ogichidaakwe (Grand Chief), Treaty #3
Crystal Sinclair, B.S.W., Activist and Organizer, Idle No More Toronto
Lorraine Land, Olthuis Kleer Townshend

Advocacy out of the Courtroom: Skills without Gowns
Asha James, Falconer Charney LLP
Janina Fogels, Human Rights Legal Support Centre
Diana Zlomistic, Toronto Star

Resisting Neoliberal Reductions in Access to Justice
TBA

PANELS: 3:15 – 4:45 pm

Solidarity City Now: Legal and Community Organizing for Immigrant Justice
Rathika Vasavithasan, Parkdale Community Legal Services
Faria Kamal, Health for All
Sarah Mikhaiel, Sanctuary Network
Liza Draman, Caregivers Action Network

The End of the Employee: A Critical Discussion on the Rise of Contract Work, Internships and Underemployment
Claire Seaborn, Canadian Intern Association
Jenny Ahn, CAW, Director for Membership, Mobilization and Political Action
TBA

Aboriginal Youth and Child Welfare
Rina Okimawinew, Attawapiskat First Nation
Billie-Jean McBride, George Brown College
Judith Rae, Olthuis Kleer Townshend

Prison Litigation as Harm Reduction
TBA

AFTERNOON KEYNOTE: 5 – 5:30 pm

Delia Opekokew is a lawyer and a deputy Chief Adjudicator for the Independent Assessment Process. From the Canoe Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, she was the first First Nations lawyer ever admitted to the bar association in Ontario and in Saskatchewan, as well as the first woman ever to run for the leadership of the Assembly of First Nations.

Childcare will be provided – please email us in advance at lawunionofontario@gmail.com with the number and ages of the children who will be attending.

If you would like to donate to the conference, you may do so through
the Jur-Ed Foundation at Canada Helps

Questions? Email us at lawunionofontario@gmail.com, and include “conference” in the subject heading.

Discrimination Against Roma in Hungary: European Court

The European Court of Human Rights (constituted under the Council of Europe) released a decision on January 29, 2013 concerning discrimination against Roma citizens in Hungary. The case is HORVÁTH AND KISS v. HUNGARY 11146/11 . The two complainants had been been improperly placed in special education schools designed for mentally disabled / special needs students on the basis of their ethnic origin. The European Roma Rights Centre were active in representing the complainants.

Pre-emptive Deportations, Thanks Canada!

The ruling falls at a time when Canada is putting up major barriers to Roma migration. Despite voluminous indications of differential treatment and xenophobia, the Canadian Government, and in particular, Minister of Immigration et al, Jason Kenney has been making strides in depicting Hungary as a safe democratic country. In particular, and in a bizarre move, Kenney has been setting up billboards in Hungary, telling Roma people that if they come to Canada, they will be deported. Here is the sign below. We hope that Canada will take note of the recent Human Rights decision from Europe. The recent demonization of the Roma community has come on the heels of xenophobic remarks made by long-time Conservative Party activist Ezra Levant on Sun TV.

Family Status Discrimination: The Federal Court takes a stand on Childcare Issues for Workers

Canada’s Federal Court has recently issued two decisions finding a lack of consideration towards workers’ childare issues discrimination on the basis of ‘family status’. Both decisions were penned by The Honourable Leonard S. Mandamin.

First, on January 31, 2013, the Federal Court released  Canada (Attorney General) v. Johnstone, 2013 FC 113 (CanLII). Here, Ms. Fiona Johnstone complains of human rights discrimination at work due to family status. Johnstone argued that her employer, the Canadian Border Services Agency, “engaged in a discriminatory employment practice with respect to family status, specifically, in relation to her parental childcare obligations.”  Johnstone had been working rotating shifts and requested full-time, fixed day shifts  to accommodate childcare for her kids. The Employer’s policy prohibited fixed day shifts. Johnstone was therefore ineligible for benefits available to full-time employees.

The Court reasons, at paras 125-128:

[125]      Simply stated, any significant interference with a substantial parental obligation is serious. Parental obligations to the child may be met in a number of different ways. It is when an employment rule or condition interferes with an employee’s ability to meet a substantial parental obligation in any realistic way that the case for prima faciediscrimination based on family status is made out.

[126]      In Amselem the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a person’s freedom of religion is interfered with where the person demonstrates that he or she has a sincere religious belief and a third party interfered, in a manner that is non-trivial or not insubstantial, with that person’s ability to act in accordance with the belief.

[127]      The phrase “a substantial parental duty or obligation”equates with and establishes the same threshold as a sincere religious belief. Amselem.

[128]      In my view, the serious interference test as proposed by the Applicant is not an appropriate test for discrimination on the ground of family status. It creates a higher threshold to establish a prima faciecase on the ground of family status as compared to other grounds. Rather, the question to be asked is whether the employment rule interferes with an employee’s ability to fulfill her substantial parental obligations in any realistic way.

This decision is cited and further bolstered by a second decision on the same topic, released February 1, 2013.  In Canadian National Railway v. Seeley, 2013 FC 117 (CanLII) , the Federal Court dismisses an appeal against finding of discrimination on the basis of family status.  Denise Seeley was employed by CN as a freight train conductor. She was on lay-off and was recalled to report to a temporary work assignment to cover a major shortage in Vancouver, British Columbia. She advised she could not report to Vancouver because of childcare issues, as Vancouver was far away from her home in Jasper, Alberta. CN gave Ms. Seeley additional time, however, she did not report for work; as a result, CN terminated her employment.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal reinstated her employment, amongst other remedies, and CN appealed the decision. An important component of the decision is at para 78 where Mandamin suggests the following test in assessing whether there is discrimination on the basis of family status:

[78]          In trying to distil the principles the above cases represent, I would venture to suggest there are underlying questions one or the other has either raised or  addressed:

a.         does the employee have a substantial obligation to provide childcare for the child or children; in this regard, is the parent the sole or primary care giver, is the obligation substantial and one that goes beyond personal choice;

b.         are there realistic alternatives available for the employee to provide for childcare: has the employee had the opportunity to explore and has explored available options; and is there a workplace arrangement, process, or collective agreement available to the employee that may accommodate an employee’s childcare obligations and workplace obligations;

c.         does the employer conduct, practice or rule put the employee in the difficult  position of choosing between her (or his) childcare duties or the workplace obligations?

The Federal Court dismissed the appeal, ruling that “the Tribunal’s finding that parental childcare obligations comes within the term “family status” in the Act.” Moreover, the finding  “was reasonable in keeping with the Supreme Court of Canada guidance in Dunsmuir,Khosa and Mowat.”