Welcome to Rights Angle, the ACLRC blog. Here, ACLRC's lawyers and educators seek to provide insight on the human rights and civil liberties issues that are important to Albertans today.
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Case Commented On:Aboriginal Peoples Television Network v Alberta (Attorney General), 2018 ABCA 133 (CanLII) (APTN)
In 2011, Casey Armstrong was stabbed to death, leading to the arrest of Wendy Scott and Connie Oakes, a Cree woman. Scott pled guilty to the second-degree murder charge, while Oakes decided to undergo a jury trial, which led to her eventual conviction (APTN, at para 4). During Oakes’ trial, Scott acted as a key witness for the Crown. On cross-examination, Scott was questioned about three videotaped statements she had made to the police following her arrest. To highlight the inconsistencies between Scott’s in-court testimony and the police statements, specific small portions of the videotapes were played to the jury and judge. Although only parts of the tapes were shown, the trial judged marked the videos collectively as “Exhibit F for identification” (APTN, at para 5).
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter) provides protection from discrimination in s 15(1). Section 15(2) allows governments to establish programs to ameliorate historical disadvantage of particular minority groups. These programs are sometimes referred to as “affirmative action programs”.
In 2015, the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal (AHRT) found that a private school in Calgary (Webber Academy) had unlawfully discriminated against two Muslim high school students by prohibiting them from performing certain prescribed Sunni prayers on the school campus. The AHRT awarded the students $12,000 and $14,000 respectively as damages for distress, injury and loss of dignity (see 2015 AHRC 8 (CanLII)). The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta (per Justice G.H. Poelman) upheld that decision (see 2016 ABQB 442 (CanLII), and see the ABlawg post on this decision). Webber Academy appealed the decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal (ABCA), adding new constitutional issues. The Court of Appeal (per Justices Jack Watson, Patricia Rowbotham, and JD Bruce MacDonald) sent the matter back to the AHRT for re-determination after it has heard appropriate evidence and argument on all the issues. The ABCA held that the AHRT was better placed to make the necessary findings of fact, mixed fact and law, or questions of law alone that were within its jurisdiction. The ABCA noted that there may be remaining discrete issues under the Canadian Charter of Rightsand Freedoms, such as the constitutionality of s 4 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, RSA 2000, c A-25.5 (AHRA), which prohibits discrimination in services customarily available to the public, including education. The ABCA ordered a new hearing with a new panel of the Tribunal, and the AHRT was ordered to refer any Charter questions by way of a stated case to the Court of Queen’s Bench for resolution. (Webber at para 52).
Campbell involves an appeal from a decision of the Chief Electoral Officer of Alberta to sanction Jarrett Campbell and Jaskaran Sandhu during the provincial election held on May 5, 2015. The Chief Electoral Officer applied to the Court of Queen’s Bench for guidance regarding what should be contained in a Certified Record produced by the Electoral Officer under Alberta’s Elections Act, RSA 2000, c E-1 [Elections Act]. The main issue before the court was whether the Chief Electoral Officer was able to redact information that is confidential and irrelevant to the appeal (Campbell, at para 2).
Clearly, challenges surrounding drug and alcohol testing policies and procedures take up quite a bit of time and energy of companies, unions, arbitrators and eventually, courts. The factual context is very important in these cases. This leads to the courts often deferring to the fact finding and conclusions drawn by tribunals.
The facts in this case were summarized by Madam Justice Ritu Khullar as follows. Grievors Landon Potter and Nolan Vanderkley (“Potter” and “Vanderkley”) were part of a site crew installing transmission towers at a remote location outside of Fort McMurray (CEWA, at para 2). The site was accessed by a narrow road with portions that did not permit two-way travel. A Nodwell, a 65,000-pound vehicle that is 25-feet-long and 13-feet-wide, with restricted visibility on the sides, was at the bottom of the hill on the narrow portion of the road and needed to be moved (CEWA, at para 2). Vanderkley directed Potter to move the Nodwell into the working area, and unbeknownst to Potter, Vanderkley next backed his company Ford truck to the side of the road, into the blind spot of the Nodwell, in order to allow a third vehicle to pass. Potter decided to back the Nodwell up to go into the worksite instead of driving forward, and Vanderkley spotted the Nodwell at the last moment and moved forward, but was unable to completely avoid being hit by the Nodwell, incurring some damage to the Ford truck (CEWA, at para 3). Although Potter had done a circle check to ensure there were no obstructions, he had not used a spotter to help him back up and did not see Vanderkley’s truck (CEWA, at para 4).
Ric Mclver, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, made comments during Question Period about power companies. His comments were subject to a complaint that he was in conflict of interest as his wife is a sole shareholder and director of a power company. The Ethics Commissioner investigated and determined that he breached the Conflict of Interest Act, RSA 2000, c C-23 [CIA][Any following references to legislative sections are assumed to be to the CIA unless otherwise noted] and eventually sanctioned Mr. McIver. He was ordered to apologize to pay $500 and to apologize to the Legislative Assembly. In an application for judicial review, Mr. McIver challenged the Ethics Commissioner’s decision and argued that she exceeded her jurisdiction in interfering with his free speech.
There has been a great deal of attention in the media lately about allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace. The current “#MeToo Movement” was thought to have started after public accusations of sexual misconduct by former American film producer Harvey Weinstein. The hashtag #MeToo actually developed from the term “Me Too” coined by American civil rights activist, Tarana Burke, who had used the term since 2006 to raise awareness about sexual abuse and sexual assault in. In October 2017, when after allegations were made against Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged social media users to tweet #MeToo (or its equivalent in other languages) widely in order to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
There have been several previous ABlawg posts on this litigation related to drug testing in the workplace. See here, here, here, and here.
Suncor Energy Inc. appealed an interim injunction granted by the ABQB (Unifor, Local 707A v Suncor Energy Inc., 2017 ABQB 752 (CanLII)), which prohibited it from implementing random drug and alcohol testing of members of Unifor Local 707A (Unifor) in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo until a new arbitration is ordered, unless the Supreme Court of Canada determines that a new arbitration is unnecessary (application for leave to appeal Suncor Energy Inc v Unifor Local 707A, 2017 ABCA 313 (CanLII) (the arbitration matter) to the SCC was initiated in November 2017). In the instant case, a majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal (per Justices Ronald Berger and Patricia Rowbotham) upheld the interim injunction.
The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) recently overturned the Alberta Court of Appeal’s ruling on this case and reinstated the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench decision. This case has been the subject of previous blog postings by my colleague, Hasna Shireen; see here, here and here.
Many Canadians are living in poverty, and people from certain groups are overrepresented in those who are suffering poverty’s adverse effects, no matter how we measure or define “poverty”. For example, a 2015 study by the Edmonton Social Planning Council revealed troublesome statistics:
one in eight Edmontonians lives below the poverty line;
Alberta has the largest percentage of working people living in poverty in Canada;
one in five children under 18 in Edmonton live in poverty, and that number increases to one in two if the family has a single parent;
Aboriginal persons are twice as likely as non-Aboriginal persons to be living in poverty; and
Recent immigrants have comparatively lower incomes than other Canadians.
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