Alleged racial discrimination dominates complaints to Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal

“Overall race has been listed most frequently followed by disability and ethnic origin”

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Human rights complaints in Nunavut almost always have something to do with race.

The incidents sparking complaints to the territory’s human rights tribunal also usually take place while people are looking for work or are at work, said the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal’s 2011-12 annual report, tabled in the legislative assembly March 19.

Most complaints are made to the tribunal after the complainants have left Nunavut, or are in the process of leaving.

“Overall, race has been listed most frequently followed by disability and ethnic origin,” the annual report said.

The tribunal received seven complaints, or notifications in 2011-12. That’s up six from the year before.

There were 60 inquires in 2011-12 and 39 during the previous year.

Of those files, many were closed as settlements were reached and hearings conducted, the 2011-12 annual report said.

As of March 31 2012, there were three outstanding decisions, and three hearings during the “reporting period” – the first ones that the small tribunal has conducted.

The first hearing took place in Iqaluit in July 2011.

Martin Blanchette filed a complaint with the tribunal against his employer, Cecil Vendetti, who ended up being ordered to pay Blanchette $19,500 for lost wages resulting from discrimination.

The second hearing, which took place in Cape Dorset in December 2011, saw Peter Petaulassie allege “discrimination of the grounds of family status” against the Hamlet of Cape Dorset during a job competition to become the hamlet recreation coordinator in 2005.

The hamlet was ordered to pay Petaulassie $20,314.89 for lost wages, and injury to dignity, feelings or self-respect.

The third hearing was adjourned because those involved reached a settlement.

As of March 31, 2012, the five-person tribunal remained two members short of the five that it’s supposed to have.

The annual report noted the “lack of face-to-face interaction with parties and the general public.”

Most “alleged acts of discrimination” took place in the Baffin region, the report said — almost nine in ten.

Those acts often took place while seeking work or at work for both complaints and inquiries.

Almost an equal number of inquiries came from the Kivalliq and Baffin regions, which had 26 and 28 inquiries respectively.

The tribunal has been scrutinized for serious structural problems and not working the way it’s supposed to, a 2012 report said.

That report pointed to the tribunal’s office location in Coral Harbour as a factor in information about human rights in Nunavut lagging “significantly behind” other jurisdictions.

The people who make up the tribunal make all decisions at all stages of proceedings defined under the human rights act.

Tribunal members are to be independent of the Government of Nunavut, which appoints them.

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