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competing rights

Creed accommodation involving cross-sex contact

July 29, 2015

Where two human rights conflict, the Supreme Court of Canada has said no rights are absolute, no one right automatically “trumps” any other, and any human right can be limited if it interferes with the rights of others.

Girls and women often face sexism, marginalization, discrimination, harassment and exclusion throughout society. Women have fought hard over the years for equal rights and treatment.

People belonging to minority creed communities have faced religious intolerance, including serious persecution, harassment, racism and discrimination.  

Policy on competing human rights

April 2012 - The main goal of this policy is to provide clear, user-friendly guidance to organizations, policy makers, litigants, adjudicators and others on how to assess, handle and resolve competing rights claims. The policy will help various sectors, organizations and individuals deal with everyday situations of competing rights, and avoid the time and expense of bringing a legal challenge before a court or human rights decision-maker. It sets out a process, based in existing case law, to analyze and reconcile competing rights. This process is flexible and can apply to any competing rights claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provincial or federal human rights legislation or another legislative scheme.

4. What are competing rights?

From: Policy on competing human rights

In general, competing human rights involve situations where parties to a dispute claim that the enjoyment of an individual or group’s human rights and freedoms, as protected by law, would interfere with another’s rights and freedoms. This complicates the normal approach to resolving a human rights dispute where only one side claims a human rights violation. In some cases, only one party is making a human rights claim, but the claim conflicts with the legal entitlements of another party or parties.

Ontario Human Rights Commission v. Christian Horizons

On May 14, 2010, Ontario’s Divisional Court issued a decision on a case called Ontario Human Rights Commission v. Christian Horizons. The Divisional Court’s ruling was on the appeal of a 2008 decision made by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. In that decision, the Tribunal found that Christian Horizons infringed the rights of an employee who was in a same sex relationship.

The shadow of the law: Surveying the case law dealing with competing rights claims

This document explains the legal backdrop for the Commission’s Policy Framework. It is divided into two main sections. The first provides an overview and summary of key legal principles from some significant legal decisions. This section aims to help readers understand the relevant legal background when seeking to conciliate or otherwise reconcile competing rights claims. The second part of the document surveys the leading cases that deal with competing rights. It also provides examples of situations where the leading cases, and the key principles from them, have been applied by courts and tribunals. It is divided by the types of rights conflicts that most commonly arise. The cases are discussed in some detail as the specific factual context of each case is so important to the rights reconciliation process.

Competing rights case moves to the Supreme Court of Canada

From: Annual Report 2010-2011: Looking back, moving forward

The Supreme Court of Canada recently agreed to hear the case of a woman who wanted to exercise her right to express her religion by continuing to wear her niqab while testifying in a sexual assault case. This case involves a possible conflict between the right to religious freedom and a defendant’s right, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to face their accuser as part of their “full answer and defence” to the charges against them.

Balancing creed and safety – Loomba v. Home Depot Canada

From: Annual Report 2010-2011: Looking back, moving forward

A good example of rights and responsibilities colliding is the case of Deepinder Loomba, a Sikh man who wears a turban. In his job as a security guard, he was assigned to monitor security at a Home Depot store that was still under construction. Although there were signs stating hardhats were required on the site, Mr. Loomba did not wear one because it interfered with the turban he wore as an element of his faith.

Taking conflicting rights to the next step – the Christian Horizons decision

From: Annual Report 2010-2011: Looking back, moving forward

Tribunals and courts face a growing need to balance competing rights, in areas such as religion and sexual orientation. One example of this balancing act is Ontario Human Rights Commission v. Christian Horizons, a lengthy and complex case which was appealed to the Ontario Divisional Court.

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