Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
Above: Prime Minister
Below: Sculptor Lea Vivot's
statue of Tommy Douglas
is unveiled by grandson
Keifer Sutherland. September 2010.
The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code (Code) just finished marking its 30th birthday as the celebration plans started both for the 50th Anniversary of the Canadian Bill of Rights, passed by Saskatchewan-born Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker's government on August 10, 1960, and the commemoration of another Saskatchewan-born human rights champion, Tommy Douglas. Douglas' grandson, Kiefer Sutherland, was recently in Weyburn Saskatchewan to commemorate the accomplishments of his grandfather. Douglas' government was responsible for the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, 1947 – the first comprehensive human rights legislation in North America. This legislation still serves to protect the human rights of the citizens of Saskatchewan as Part I of the Code. Human rights protections and the belief in human dignity live on through the legacy of these fine Saskatchewan people.
New Four Pillars Strategic Plan
In January 2009, Judge David Arnot was appointed as the new Chief Commissioner for the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission with a view to bringing a fresh direction including a commitment to develop a more comprehensive and effective public education focus. The Commission has moved forward developing a Four Pillar strategic business plan. This vision involves the retention of our own best practices and the incorporation of current best practices from other provinces. Focus on the Four Pillars will guide the Commission to realize a decrease in the number and type of human rights complaints, create greater citizen knowledge and understanding about Canadian human rights and responsibilities, and preserve our Canadian core values of dignity and respect for all.
Pillar One: Complaints Processing
The Commission will continue to seek efficiencies in its effective investigation, mediation and prosecution of complaints, with the explicit role of gatekeeper to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal which adjudicates provincial human rights complaints.
Pillar Two: Directed Mediation
The Commission will increasingly seek non-litigation resolution to most complaints, especially when a reasonable offer of settlement is made by either party to the complaint. The Commission would direct the parties to settle, often with more satisfactory results for both parties than those achieved through expensive litigation.
Pillar 3: Systemic Advocacy
The Commission will further develop and implement systemic approaches to human rights complaint resolution in order to facilitate broad-based changes wherever possible to discriminatory systems that affect many people. Systemic resolution can provide remedies to discrimination for many individuals more quickly than the resolution of individual complaints.
Pillar 4: Civics Education
Lack of knowledge, not malice, is generally at the root of human rights complaints. The Commission will partner to implement a solid civics education foundation in the K-12 curriculum in order to increase knowledge and understanding of citizen rights and responsibilities in society. All residents and citizens need to understand the core Canadian values and responsibilities that underpin the structure and success of our peaceful and democratic society.
A significant shift in the work of the Investigation and Mediation unit this past year was the increase in the number of files resolved through settlement. In 2009-2010, 38% of the files concluded were resolved through mediation or another settlement process. In fact, more files were concluded through settlement than through the investigation process. The majority of this work was done through early mediation, but increasingly, complaints are being resolved during investigation as well. The Commission also uses conciliation after investigation to attempt to avoid the matter going to a public hearing.
Connecting with Our Community
Chief Commissioner, Judge David Arnot
with Author Heather Kuttai
Wheelchair User Launches New Accessible Podium and Book
Heather Kuttai, a paralympic medalist, author and mother helped the Saskatchewan government take a pioneering step when it unveiled a first-of-its-kind wheelchair accessible podium, designed and built by government carpenters. Premier Brad Wall had made note of Heather's joking comment on having no access to the podium during a speech she gave in Saskatoon in 2009. The podium uses hydraulics to raise or lower it so it is accessible to anyone. The SHRC has obtained the plans for the podium should any one wish to recreate this valuable tool.
Judge David Arnot, Chief Commissioner, also recognized the important personal story, Heather Kuttai shares in her recent book, Maternity Rolls, which challenges and inspires readers, those with disabilities and those without, to rethink their preconceived notions of what it means to be a parent and live with a disability. (Heather Kuttai, "Maternity Rolls") The Commission donated several dozen copies of Maternity Rolls, to the Saskatchewan Provincial Library for distribution to provincial libraries.
Reaching New Canadians
Heather Monus, Education &
Equity Advisor, with newcomers and
their families. Estevan, Sk, February 2010.
One of the Commission's recent projects involved work with the Ministry of Advanced Education Employment and Labour, Immigration Services Division to produce an information fact sheet about discrimination and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. The fact sheet will eventually be translated into twenty two languages.
One Human Family Poster
The Commission has launched a beautiful new educational poster with a made-in-Saskatchewan flavour. The poster depicts musician Joseph Naytowhow with Saskatchewan children in multicultural dress. The slogan, "One Human Family," denotes the Commission's philosophy that we are all equal in dignity and rights. See our annual report which carries this theme
For more information on the SHRC visit our website at www.shrc.gov.sk.ca