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April 6, 2017


The recent decision of a judicial review to compel the Human Rights Commission to accept a complaint set me to wondering.

"Counsel for the Commission referred to the "sheer volume" of inquiries." says the decision, making it sound like the HRC Is busy, busy.

On their website, the HRC says "Most human rights complaints are now resolved through a process called a Resolution Conference" and there are no current statistics about this. A 2001 report says they have a backlog of 200 complaints.

They do list the decisions of all "Boards of Inquiry" over the years. "If the parties have been unable to resolve the complaint through a resolution conference, a recommendation may be made by the human rights officer to the Commissioners to refer the matter to a Board of Inquiry." 128 Decisions since 1979 is about 3.5 decisions per year. The HRC Has a staff of 24.5 and a $2.5 million budget. The average salary is $84,600. You could estimate the average cost per decision using today's HRC budget, but that would be a scary exercise.

Here's a summary of the Board of Inquiry Decisions over the years by "Prohibited Area"

You see quite a steady stream of decisions from 2003 - 2007, then a sharp dropoff until 2012, then a huge increase followed by a steady decline.  I'd guess the recent decline is due to the dominant use of the resolution conference (AKA mediation).

Within Prohibited Areas, decisions are assigned Protected Characteristic:

Employment and Disability are at issue in 31 of 128 Boards of Inquiry.  Nothing else comes close.

My real question is about Resolution Conferences. I imagine the records are sealed.  What if there's a pattern?  Sexual Harassment by a particular individual?  Women paid less than men in a municipality?  Racial profiling by a retailer?

Taking that last as an example, something caused the HRC to study profiling in 2013. Through a survey and focus groups, they conclude that profiling is endemic.  
• Overall, 11.0% of respondents had been searched as a consumer in the past 12 months. 
• Latin American (38.5%), Aboriginal (29.3%), and African Canadian (24.7%) respondents reported significantly higher prevalence rates of being searched than did White respondents (6.2%).
"Significantly" may or may not mean statistically so.  Here is what they'll do about it:
We want to work with retailers and service providers to improve services to racialized groups through the following: 
• increasing awareness of consumer racial profiling • developing training materials • supporting best practices 
Gee, the Charter of Rights says: everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure". And the best the HRC can do is to "increase awareness"?

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