I. New Executive Director
In August, Brenda J. Picard Q.C. commenced her position as Executive Director of the PEI Human Rights Commission.
Ms. Picard has been a long time promoter of social justice and equality issues. In addition to her long career with PEI Legal Aid, Ms. Picard has been involved in the private practice of law in both Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. She has volunteered in the community in various capacities for over 30 years, and in provincial and national organizations relating to family violence prevention, restorative justice and conflict resolution. In 2007, Ms. Picard was recognized for her various contributions to the community at large and the legal community by receiving the PEI Law Society's inaugural Community Service Award and by being appointed Queens Counsel.
Ms. Picard looks forward to contributing to the community by promoting equality and dignity. She states: "There is an ongoing need for members of our community to have opportunities to learn and understand what it means to treat others without discrimination. While some discriminatory actions are malicious, others demonstrate a lack of understanding and awareness. It is important that we educate the youth and adults in our community to be sensitive with their words and actions. Our communities will flourish if we learn to accept people's differences as a richness available to us because of our belief in Human Rights."
Ms. Picard has already enjoyed meeting many of her CASHRA colleagues and looks forward to collaborating with them on important national issues.
II. New Grounds of DiscriminationI
n December, the provincial legislature unanimously voted to amend the PEI Human Rights Act to specify gender identity and gender expression as enumerated grounds. We believe that by listing gender identity and gender expression alongside other prohibited grounds of discrimination the Act becomes a better tool for delivering protection and public education of benefit to all Islanders.
For instance, transgender or genderqueer persons benefit from knowing that they are as free and equal in dignity and rights as any other individual, group or relationship already protected by the Act. Similarly, employers, service providers, landlords and others benefit by having clearer knowledge of their rights and responsibilities under the Act.
The Commission acknowledges AIDS PEI, the Native Council of PEI and ARCPEI for recommending that these grounds be specified in the Act. We would also like to thank Claire Patoureau, international Law Student, for her extensive research and recommendations on these grounds.
III. New Education Project
The Commission is proud to announce that we have begun the most expansive and comprehensive education project ever undertaken in our 37 year history. Our project, The 4Rs - Made in PEI: Rights Responsibilities, Relationships and Resources, is made possible by generous support from the Law Foundation of Prince Edward Island. We envision this project as a 3 year collaboration among the Commission, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, PEI Teacher's Federation and UPEI Faculty of Education. The objective of The 4Rs is to identify, develop and implement approved curriculum support resources and professional development opportunities which facilitate both students and educators gaining the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to demonstrate respect and support for fundamental human rights.
IV. New Human Rights Day Event
The Commission held its first open house on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2013. Set to the theme of 'Speak Up, Stop Discrimination', the event opened with moving remarks from the Ministers of Justice and Education and ended with original dramatic and musical performances by Colonel Gray High School students. The event proved such a smash success for the Commission and the approximately 100 attendees that we anticipate hosting our second open house on December 10, 2014! The Commission thanks the students, teachers and Curriculum Specialist Vicki Allen-Cook for helping make the event so memorable. We also thank staff of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights for donating pins which we presented to the student performers and artists.