November 14, 2007

Manitoba Human Rights Commission Releases 2006 Annual Report Formal Complaints Received is the Highest Since 1990

The total number of formal complaints the Manitoba Human Rights Commission received in 2006 is reaching record highs. According to Dianna Scarth, Executive Director of the Commission, the number of formal complaints received (297) is the highest since 1990 and rivals the numbers recorded in the first few years following the proclamation of The Human Rights Code (Manitoba) in December 1987. She adds that in 2006, an additional 45 matters were resolved informally through the Commission’s pre-complaint process.

The 2006 Annual Report also reveals that the greatest number of formal complaints filed continues to be on the basis of physical and mental disability. Ancestry complaints were the second highest. In recent years complaints based on sex, including pregnancy was second.

Statistics show that disability complaints were at 41.5%, while complaints based on ancestry were at 20%, and sex, including pregnancy, were at 18% of the total number of formal complaints filed.

The Commission is also facing more complicated systemic complaints. “One of the greatest challenges,” says Ms Scarth “is the level of resources available to deal with systemic complaints.”

Systemic complaints raise allegations of discriminatory treatment of large groups. Examples of systemic complaints range from the accreditation of foreign trained doctors to the treatment of women incarcerated in provincial institutions.

“Systemic complaints require extensive research and investigations, but resolutions have a great impact in addressing large scale patterns of discrimination,” says Ms Scarth.

Other highlights of the 2006 Annual Report include:

  • Mediation commenced in regard to the Elizabeth Fry Society complaint against the Government of Manitoba. This was the first mediation about the treatment of female prisoners in a provincial system in Canada. (The mediation concluded successfully in 2007).
  • A settlement was reached between the Rainbow Harmony Project and Camp Arnes, balancing freedom of religion and the right to protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • The Commission and the University of Winnipeg’s Racialized Communities and Police Services Project held its first community consultation, which resulted in a joint news release agreed upon by all the groups in attendance, including the Winnipeg Police Service. The project began at the request of a group of inner city residents who alleged racial profiling by the City of Winnipeg Police.
  • Legal proceedings included two successful adjudications (Amy and Jesse Pasternak v The Manitoba High School Athletic Association and Hank Richard v the Brandon Youth Hockey Association), and one successful Manitoba Court of Appeal hearing (Thorvaldson Care Homes Ltd. v the Manitoba Human Rights Commission).
  • The Commission, with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, was granted intervener status at the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities v Via Rail. In support of the CCD, the Commission argued that human rights principles should be applied in the context of specialized human rights legislation. (The decision, in favour of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, was released in 2007.)
  • The Commission developed guidelines for retailers, emphasizing the importance of respecting human rights when attempting to control the sale of intoxicating substances.

The 2006 Annual Report is available on the Commission’s website.

For more information please contact:

Patricia Knipe
Communications Director
Manitoba Human Rights Commission