For immediate publication
Toronto – A settlement has been reached in the longest-running human rights case in Canadian history.
The case of Michael McKinnon v. the Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services concerned discrimination on the basis of Aboriginal ancestry and has become the leading Canadian case on human rights remedies in race discrimination. The original complaint by Mr. McKinnon, a correctional officer working in the Ministry, was filed in 1988 and has now been settled after 23 years.
In 1998, the Board of Inquiry, as it was then called, found Mr. McKinnon’s workplace and that of his spouse and fellow correctional officer Vicki Shaw McKinnon, to be poisoned by discriminatory conduct including racist comments, reprisals after he objected to the behavior and a failure on the part of the Employer to effectively address the problem. Since that decision, Mr. McKinnon has returned to the Board of Inquiry and what is now the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on several occasions and has succeeded in having Professor Hubbard issue a series of precedent-setting and landmark rulings with respect to race discrimination and Aboriginal issues, which have resulted in the creation of innovative and proactive human rights remedies in a challenging workplace environment.
“Mr. McKinnon’s fight against discrimination was a fight for all employees and not just himself to have a workplace free from harassment and discrimination” said Kate Hughes, counsel for Mr. McKinnon. “Mr. McKinnon, with the support of his union OPSEU, has carried on this struggle for over two decades and we sincerely hope that this settlement will bring well deserved closure for the McKinnons and long term positive change in the corrections culture. This is a good news story of the government and the Ontario Human Rights Commission willing to work together and take responsibility”.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission announced that it has entered into an important partnership with the government to ensure that long term systemic initiatives are further developed and properly implemented. This agreement or “Project Charter”, is similar to other agreements that they have entered into, such as with the Toronto Police Services Board and will benefit from the use of expert advisory committees working cooperatively with the government.
Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall stated, “I am very pleased that this proceeding is now resolved as a result of the new settlement. The Ministry has agreed to undertake a number of actions that will directly benefit those who presently work and who will work in the future in Correctional Services. Among other things, these steps will result in enhanced accountability, recruitment and training with respect to Aboriginal employees. The Commission is looking forward to working with the Ministry to implement the terms of this important settlement.”
Ron McKerlie, Deputy Minister of Government Services stated: “While the settlement brings an end to the litigation and represents closure for the McKinnons, it also signals a new beginning for Corrections. The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is fully committed to working closely with the OHRC and concentrating its efforts on promoting essential values, respect and accountability throughout the ranks of Correctional Services. It will continue to strive for excellence in achieving a healthy work environment that is truly reflective of diversity, equity and inclusion as part of the Corrections commitment to professionalism.”
As a result of the settlement, the Ministry has agreed to continue developing or initiate further measures to better ensure closer adherence to human rights obligations and renewed support of diverse interests within correctional institutions across the province.
More information can be obtained from:
Contact for government:
Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Greg Flood, Sr. Media Relations/Issue Coordinator
Contact for Mr. McKinnon:
Cavalluzzo Hayes Shilton McIntyre and Cornish,
Kate Hughes (416 964 5518); Khughes@cavalluzzo.com