October 15, 2009

Manitoba Human Rights Commission Releases 2008 Annual Report

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission has released its 2008 Annual Report and its cover proudly displays the Peace by Piece Banner created by students who had attended the Commission’s youth conferences. The massive 20 by 24 foot banner was unveiled at the Manitoba Legislature on December 9, 2008 in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and symbolizes the commitment of Manitoba youth to human rights today and tomorrow.

The annual report once again reveals that complaints based on disability continue to be most common complaint filed. During 2008, forty-one percent of new complaints were based on disability. The next two highest grounds for new complaints were "sex, including pregnancy" at 17.5 percent and "ancestry/ethnic or national origin" at 16 percent.

Disability cases comprised 47.5 percent of the complaints closed during the year, which is an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.

As well the Commission was successful in resolving several significant systemic complaints also based on the ground of disability. According to Executive Director Dianna Scarth, as a result of a settlement with the Government of Manitoba, "over 800 families will benefit from increased social assistance payment to adults with disabilities who live with family members."

Another systemic complaint based on disability, she says, will assist thousands of visually impaired citizens. The settlement with the City of Winnipeg will result in new audible traffic signals throughout the city.

"Such settlements" says Ms Scarth, "destroy the myth that human rights complaints deal with discrimination on a case by case basis, and do not have a significant impact on large groups."

In his annual report message, Chairperson Jerry Woods referred to the many great events held in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that occurred in 2008, including the Into the Future Human Rights Conference and the Celebrate Your Rights Youth Conference.

He also, however, noted that despite these celebrations and education efforts, there continues to be misunderstandings about the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, how it works and what it accomplishes.

"Inaccurate descriptions of the adjudication process or erroneous reports on recent decisions from other jurisdictions have, at times, clouded the important work that is being done to reinforce a Manitoba society free of discrimination," he wrote.

Other highlights of the 2008 Annual Report include:

  • There were 55 more complaints closed during the year than were opened, which shows that the Commission has made good progress towards keeping its caseload current.
  • The settlement rate for disability complaints was 49.5 percent, which is higher that the average settlement rate suggesting that mediation appears to be an effective way of dealing with disability complaints.
  • The Manitoba Human Rights Commission and its partners, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties took the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an opportunity to hold a one day conference called Into the Future, which featured workshops on issues affecting women, First Nations and people with disabilities.
  • The cornerstone of the commission's youth initiative continues to be its youth conferences, which were held four times during the year. The first three conferences "Our World, Your World, My World", held in The Pas, Brandon and Winnipeg during the spring, brought students from across the province together with one central project: the creation of the "Peace by Piece" banner. The last conference, "Celebrate Your Rights" held in December in Winnipeg, also celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, concluded with the delivery of the banner to the Manitoba Legislature.
  • The second phase of the The Racialized Communities and Police Services Project began in 2008.
  • Two new guidelines, Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace and Pre-employment inquiries: You can respect human rights in hiring were published.
  • One adjudication hearing was held in 2008 regarding a complaint alleging a policy of restricting families with children to apartments on the main floor violated the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of family status when renting a home (s 16).

The 2008 Annual Report is available on the Commission’s website www.manitobahumanrights.ca
For more information, please contact:

Patricia Knipe
Communications Director
Manitoba Human Rights Commission