Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 14, 2014 - 2:48 pm

Latest Nunavut human rights complaints relate mostly to sex, family ties

Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal laments lack of face-to-face contact

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Bonnie Almon, chair of the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal. (COURTESY NHRT ANNUAL REPORT)
Bonnie Almon, chair of the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal. (COURTESY NHRT ANNUAL REPORT)

Recent discrimination in Nunavut is most commonly based on sex, family status, ethnic origin or disability, at least according to people who made official complaints to the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal in 2012-13.

The NHRT’s latest annual report discloses a number of statistics, including the region in which discrimination is alleged to have occurred and what the person was doing when they felt they were unlawfully treated.

There were 16 official complaints registered in 2012-13, up from seven the previous year and one in 2010-11. The most common grounds cited in formal complaints broke down this way:

• sex — four;

• family status (relationship to someone through blood, marriage or adoption) — three;

• disability — two; and,

• ethnic origin — two.

In the previous year, 2011-12, there were only seven official complaints registered and four of them were based on disability.

Most complainants — 10 in all — alleged the discrimination occurred at work or while they were seeking work. Another five said it happened while seeking services and goods and one person said it was related to tenancy.

That reflects a trend over the past 10 years. Three quarters of all formal discrimination complaints since 2004 dealt with events at work or while seeking work.

Most of the complainants last year came from Baffin — 10 — while Kitikmeot had five and Kivalliq, one.

The tribunal did not hold any human rights hearings this year but did conclude one case using teleconference mediation.

After a person files a formal complaint, a copy of the complaint is sent to the person or agency named in the complaint.

The respondent has a right to reply to the notification. The tribunal then reviews those documents (known as a Part 4 review) then decides whether to dismiss the notification or continue with proceedings.

If it proceeds, the tribunal will attempt to resolve it informally using mediators, elders, tribunal members or other organizations. Most complaints which pass the Part 4 review are resolved this way.

If mediation efforts fail, a hearing will be held. In the past decade, the tribunal has held only two such hearings. 

The recent annual report did lament the lack of actual human contact between complainants, respondents and members of the tribunal, largely because the NHRT office is located in Coral Harbour.

“Staff have noted that the lack of face-to-face interaction with parties and the general public has been a challenge,” the report says.

“This aspect begs the question: ‘Where is the human element in human rights?’”

It goes on to say that it’s not the job of the Tribunal to do public outreach and education but that “education is the backbone of any human rights code.”

The Nunavut Legal Services Board has a lawyer who currently is able to help people file notifications to the NHRT, but the annual report notes that many applicants have expressed difficulty in finding legal counsel who have the time and expertise to handle human rights issues.

To find out more about the NHRT, including how to file a human rights complaint, go here.

You can read the latest annual report here.

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