Monday, April 06, 2009

So What's Going On With Human Rights Legislation In Alberta?

I dunno.

Either they are on the verge of writing protections for homosexuals explicitly into the Act, removing the power to adjudicate hate-speech cases from the AHRC, and allowing parents to opt their kids out of school classes that go against their religious beliefs (like classes teaching evolutionary biology?)

...or they are not.

I've received a couple of emails from people fairly close to the scene in Calgary who say the Stelmach government, and Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett in particular, will indeed be going ahead with the reforms, but there have appeared in Mr. Blackett's statements over the past several weeks a number of hedges that make me think this will not happen, at least not in Spring 2009.

However, there are definitely a couple of private member's motions on the table:

In Motion 511 Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Tony Vandermeer suggests: "Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to review how complaints are addressed by the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission to ensure a fair process for both complainants and respondents."

Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis is bringing forward Motion 523: "Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce amendments to the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act whereby those who are found to have filed frivolous and vexatious complaints with the Human Rights and Citizenship Commission (including complaints that are found to unreasonably challenge the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of conscience and religion) be required to pay a portion of the respondent's procedural costs."

Note that these are private motions and, if they function in the same way as they do on the Federal level, they don't actually require action on the part of the provincial government: they are non-binding statements of opinion, not changes to the actual law.

Note too that the 2nd motion (Denis') is quite interesting in that requiring the complainants to pay the costs of the respondent is a common reform suggested to the HRC system by people generally supportive of that system (for example, I think Kinsella might have mentioned such a reform, although I can't find the post on his site). However, it turns out that, in some cases where there is an "egregious abuse" of the Human Rights Tribunal process, it can already be done.

In any case, the next few weeks should tell the tale.

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