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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More reason to dump Human Rights Tribunal

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario awarded, in a 2010 decision, $2,000 each to two black lawyers and a student for “violation of their inherent right to be free from discrimination and for injury to their dignity, feelings and self-respect.” In 2008, the men had been asked by a librarian at the Peel Law Association to identify themselves. They claimed the request was discrimination.

Fortunately for the librarian, the Ontario Divisional Court has ruled this week that discrimination must be proven, not just assumed because the complainant is part of a minority. According to a report in the National Post:

The three-judge [Ontario Divisional Court] panel found that tribunal vice-chairman Eric Whist unfairly reversed the onus of proof from the complainant to the respondent, and ‘placed [the librarian] in the difficult position of trying to prove a negative, namely, that her conduct in the performance of her routine duties was not motivated by race and colour.’

And further, the court criticized the tribunal’s “misconceived” comparison of the librarian’s conduct to racial profiling by police.

Not surprisingly, the National Post reports that one of complainants is somewhat of an activist on racial discrimination. The paper wrote that:

In 1999, he reached a settlement with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency after he complained about being unfairly targeted for a search of his bags on a train from New York by a 22-year-old white male student customs officer.

He also pursued a claim of systemic bias in the Law School Admission Test, after he was not accepted to the University of Toronto based on his score, and he acted for a youth coalition that tried in 2007 to bring New Black Panther leader Malik Zulu Shabazz to Toronto to speak at a Queen’s Park rally, but failed when he was denied entry to Canada.

Apparently, the useful idiots at the tribunal played right into his hands and it took a proper court to set the record straight. In reversing the injustice, the Divisional Court ordered the complainants and the tribunal to pay legal costs of $20,000 to the librarian and to the Peel Law Association, which runs the library.

Is this not further evidence of the unsuitability of these quasi-judicial agencies to adjudicate matters as important as denial of human rights? Does the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario not understand basic judicial rights such as an accused not having to prove his innocence, but rather the state has to prove his guilt?

When citizens are hauled before this tribunal, there should be a presumption of innocence. Section 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees this when it provides that: “Any person charged with an offence has the right ... to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.”

For how much longer, I wonder, are Ontarians to be harassed by those who see discrimination around each corner. In our rush to stamp out discrimination, do we have to trample on the constitutional rights of others?

In Ontario and across Canada we are seeing mounting evidence of the tyranny of the minority.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

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