Quebec Human Rights Commission Drops Nearly 200 Cases After Supreme Court Ruling

Quebec Human Rights Commission Drops Nearly 200 Cases After Supreme Court Ruling

In 2016, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ordered Mike Ward to pay $35,000 in moral and punitive damages for making fun of Jeremy Gabriel, pictured in 2019, a singer with a disability.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Last year’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favor of a controversial Quebec comedian forced the province’s human rights commission to close 194 discrimination complaint files in the 2021-2022 fiscal year .

The findings are contained in the commission’s activity report for the period and mark the first time the government body has been able to quantify the number of cases affected by last October’s ruling in favor of Mike Ward. Commission President Philippe-André Tessier previously said in April that the highest court’s decision would likely force the organization to drop dozens of cases.

In 2016, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ordered Ward to pay $35,000 in moral and punitive damages for making fun of Jeremy Gabriel, a singer with a disability.

But the Supreme Court overturned that decision last year, ruling that Ward’s derogatory comments about Gabriel did not constitute discrimination under Quebec’s Charter of Rights. The High Court said the Quebec court, which hears cases brought before it by the provincial rights commission, exceeded its legal limits in several cases where it awarded thousands of dollars in damages after finding that the comments alone constituted discrimination.

Tessier expressed disappointment with the court-imposed limit on the actions of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse.

“These cases, previously, could be investigated by the commission and ultimately by the (human rights) tribunal, but obviously these cases are no longer covered,” Tessier said in response to the report. activity published on Friday. “It, indeed, has human consequences for people who are victims of these kinds of comments to no longer have access to this resource and we are sorry for that.”

The activity report revealed that the commission received 2,290 inquiries in the 2021-22 fiscal year and opened 548 investigations, down sharply from the 839 launched the previous year.

The most frequently cited grounds of discrimination have remained consistent over the years, according to the report. Data showed that 38% of the most recent complaints were related to disability issues, most of which related to access to public transport and public spaces.

Race-related complaints about a person’s skin colour, ethnicity or national origin are the second highest, accounting for 27% of complaints covered in the report and relating to topics such as employment , racial profiling and racial slurs.

Eight percent of complaints related to age discrimination, while complaints based on criminal record accounted for 6% and issues relating to gender and social condition totaled 4% each.

The commission saw an overall drop in the number of racial profiling cases it investigated, opening 69 in the last fiscal year, down from 86 in the 2020-21 fiscal year and 76 the previous year.

The report also discusses the commission’s efforts to tackle youth rights, an issue of concern it has raised during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, he said he had seen a drop in inquiries involving young people, attributing the drop to children being less supervised by adults outside the home during the prolonged lockdown measures.

While the 417 inquiries received in the past fiscal year eclipsed the 348 recorded the previous year and nearly rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, the report said the number of inquiries the commission could undertake was in decline. decrease. It opened 249 youth-related cases in 2021-22, compared to 272 and 360 in the previous two fiscal years, respectively.

“We opened a record number of investigations on our own initiative, often after being alerted by the media to situations of potential rights violations,” Tessier said.

The report also revealed that the commission had launched 36 investigations related to the exploitation of elderly residents, although it had received 205 such complaints.

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