In recent settlements with two different Boards, the OHRC was pleased to see an emerging focus on human rights.
In the case of Giresh Patel v. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Mr. Patel, a Hindu, was deemed by a Board adjudicator to have refused suitable work offered by his employer, even though this work involved food handling processes that were contrary to his religious beliefs. As part of the settlement of Mr. Patel’s ensuing human rights complaint, the Board agreed to work with the Commission to provide direction to its decision-makers, so that human rights considerations are taken into account when decisions are made on claims before the Board.
The case of Carlo v. the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing involved a complaint by Mr. Carlo that the services of the Landlord and Tenant Board were not accessible to him. He had requested a number of accommodations based on disability, involving Board procedures such as producing documents in large print. As part of a settlement, the Board has agreed to review its procedures for receiving, processing and hearing applications, as well as for issuing decisions and releasing records, to make sure all of these steps are consistent with the Code.
Both of these settlements are consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Tranchemontagne v. the Ministry of Community and Social Services. In this decision, the Court required that the Social Benefits Tribunal apply the Human Rights Code to resolve the issue before it.
The Supreme Court also stressed the primacy of the Code over other Ontario laws, unless the legislation governing the body expressly states that the Code will not prevail.
The OHRC will continue to monitor and work with agencies, boards and tribunals to make sure that Code principles are part of their policies, procedures and decisions.