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Queen's University

Human Rights Office

The Legal Consequences of not Fighting Racial Discrimination

What happens when an institution fails to comply with orders to clean up an environment poisoned by racism?

Thirty one remedial and compensatory orders have been issued by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against the Ontario Ministry of Corrections for culpable non-compliance with orders it set in 1998 and renewed in 2002.

The 2002 orders had, themselves, been awarded for culpable non-compliance with an original set of orders made in 1998, when the then Board of Inquiry upheld the complaint of an Aboriginal correctional officer who had endured harassment and discrimination since being hired in 1979 as well as reprisals since filing his first internal complaint in 1988.

Some of the 2007 orders clarify previous orders; others are new. They include: reaffirming the obligation to have a complaints process and trained advisors; mandatory training for all managers including senior managers; obligation to enforce compliance with orders through a ministry-wide tracking system; regular and transparent reporting of compliance with Tribunal orders by the Deputy Minister; payment of damages and compensation to complainant.

Full decision

Summary of decision

2007 orders

Why can damages be awarded when an institution has done "everything right" following an incident of racism?

The Ontario Grievance Settlement Board has ordered the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to pay damages, above and beyond those set forth in the Ontario Human Rights Code, to an African Canadian Operational manager who endured a single incident of workplace harassment in a Toronto detention centre.

The manager had endured post-traumatic stress after receiving hate mail at her home from an anonymous co-worker.

The Board acknowledged that the Ministry had conducted itself in an exemplary manner following the incident; from the police investigation and paid stress leave to its total cooperation in the grievance process.

However, it ordered that the respondent pay the maximum $20,000 for "mental distress".   It reasoned that damages for mental anguish stem not from the reaction (good or bad) of the employer following an incident of discrimination but from the incident itself, which constitutes a breach of the contractual guarantee of freedom from racial harassment in the workplace.

Full decision

Summary of decision

    Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000