Prince Edward Island Commision of Human Rights
Prince Edward Island is Canada's smallest provincial jurisdiction. Our Commission has three staff members and six part-time Commissioners. In 1998, the Legislative Assembly adopted amendments to the Human Rights Act R.S.P.E.I. 1988, Cap. H-12, giving the Executive Director authority to investigate, attempt to effect settlement, or dismiss complaints if they lack merit. The Chair may review the Executive Director's decision to dismiss or discontinue action on a complaint. In the past year we have offered mediation by a trained mediator on staff at the Commission. When settlement is not possible, the Executive Director may refer a complaint to a Human Rights Panel for adjudication, and Commissioners now act as adjudicators at hearings.
During the last fiscal year (2011/12), the Commission received 62 new formal complaints. Seven complaints were referred for hearing, and Panels have released decisions that have attracted a great deal of attention in local media. The chart below indicates the number of formal complaints filed each year since 1999/2000:
Education and the Role of Public Hearings
The Commission notes a correlation between the activity of Human Rights Panels at widely publicized hearings, and the number of new complaints. The attention given to such hearings appears to generate more awareness and a greater willingness to seek redress for human rights violations. The correlation suggests a valuable role for specialized human rights adjudication, both in offering individual redress and publicizing and educating on human rights issues.
Among the recent decisions of PEI Human Rights Panels are the following:
Bartmann et al v. University of Prince Edward Island
PEI HRP 2011
The Complainants were employed as faculty members of the Respondent. They alleged that the mandatory retirement age contained in the collective agreement and Pension Plan violated the Human Rights Act. This decision followed the 2010 Panel decision, Nilsson et al v. University of Prince Edward Island et al, which dealt with the same issue. The provision of mandatory retirement was deemed contrary to the Human Rights Act, as being discriminatory on the basis of age. The Respondent sought Judicial Review of the decision and suspended operation of the mandatory retirement scheme pending Judicial Review. The Complainants were reinstated. The parties agreed not to re-litigate the issue of liability with respect to the issue of age discrimination and the Panel limited its consideration to damages and loss of income.
Alison MacKinnon v. Inn on the Hill (1991) Inc.
PEI HRP 2011
Less than a month after beginning her employment, during her probationary period, the Complainant advised that she was pregnant. Forty minutes later her employment was terminated. The Respondent said that they had discussed the dismissal of the Complainant before the disclosure of her pregnancy and that she was dismissed because of her poor performance, but acknowledged that it did not advise the employee of any concerns. The Human Rights Panel found that the Respondent discriminated against the Complainant on the basis of her pregnancy, finding that the facts indicate that pregnancy was a factor in the Respondent's decision to dismiss.