I attended the fundraiser for 160 Girls last night and heard stories about how women in Kenya are being raped and killed in their fight to achieve equality rights (by the way, about $150,000 was raised to help fund a lawsuit in Kenya against serial rapists of young girls).
Meanwhile, back in Canada, the fuming hostility towards human rights laws was in glaring spotlight in a story in the National Post yesterday. My little blog received nearly 200 referrals yesterday from the National Post, so I checked why. A Post column on the recent human rights complaint filed by a Windsor law school professor, Emily Carasco, alleging she was denied the Dean’s position due to racial and gender discrimination linked to the post I had done earlier on that complaint. The Post story referred to an interim decision by the Human Rights Tribunal in which the Tribunal apparently rules that it has remedial jurisdiction to order Carasco be installed as the Dean, even if another Dean has been appointed in the interim, if it turns out that she was denied the Deanship due to illegal discrimination. I haven’t seen the interim decision, but that ruling seems pretty straightforward to me, given the broad remedial powers given the Tribunal in the Code (see my earlier post). Doesn’t mean the Tribunal would do that, but clearly they could do it.
What interests me is the outrageous hostility towards the human rights tribunal and human rights law in both the Editorial (by Jonathan Kay), but even more so by the loads of mouth-foaming commentators to the piece. Here’s a typical example:
Human Rights Commissions are the domain of free loaders and passive agrresive (sp) thugs, I don’t recognize their authority and nor should anybody else in this country. They should be laughed at by all of us, they should be ridiculed and shamed further until they’re either stopped and defunded or the “employees” are too ashamed to show up to “work” any longer.
These sorts of comments stroll on and on and on. Now, most of these people, most of the Canadian population, will never in their lives have any direct dealings with a human rights tribunal. Nor do human rights tribunals actually make much difference to underlying structure of society or the economy: women still earn far less than men; immigrants still have double the unemployment rate of everyone else; senior management positions are still overwhelmingly held by white men. So the anger can’t be based on any evidence that human rights tribunals are actually causing any sort of change to the structure of society, though it may be based on the ignorant perception that they do.
Rather, what the tribunals do is deal with one-off allegations that someone has been measured not based on their qualifications, but on their skin colour, sex, religion. Keep in mind that neither the Post columnist or any of the angry commentators have any idea what the facts are yet. We need a hearing to determine what happened.
What if–just imagine, what if–Emily Carasco truly is the most qualified candidate, but that a majority of the faculty got together and agreed that it would be bad for the school’s image in the business community to have a brown-skinned woman at the helm?
Is that fine? Is disqualifying a candidate based on skin colour advancing the meritocracy ideal that the Post readers claim to support (the idea that the best candidates should get the jobs)? Or, is it doing exactly the opposite?
The Supreme Court has refused to recognize a common law basis to sue for discrimination (see Bhadauria). So a person denied a job or promotion due to factors like race, sex, or religion has only the Human Rights Code available to challenge the discrimination. If we abolish human rights statutes, as the Post readers seem to want, then there would be no possible remedy for a person who, though most qualified, is denied a job because of her sex, religion, race, etc. How would that outcome advance the myth that we live in a meritocracy?