Thursday, February 17, 2011

Staff file claims against chair of Human Rights Tribunal

This system is so f***ed.

The whole article is funny.

OTTAWA — Recent staff departures and internal turmoil, including a series of harassment complaints against chairwoman Shirish Chotalia, are paralyzing the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, lawyers charge.

“It’s a complete mess right now,” human rights lawyer Paul Champ told the Ottawa Citizen. “The entire human rights system is in gridlock — it’s in crisis.”

More than half the tribunal’s staff has left for other public service jobs or has been sidelined by stress since the appointment of Ms. Chotalia, an Alberta lawyer named to the post by the Harper government in late 2009.

According to the Public Service Alliance of Canada, five employees — roughly a quarter of the staff — have filed harassment-related complaints against Ms. Chotalia.


Mr. Gloade defended Ms. Chotalia’s record as chairwoman, saying she had introduced streamlined methods, including “different forms of mediation” that had “often entirely eliminated the need for costly and time-consuming full hearings.”

Now check out the mediation methods:

Key among her changes is “evaluative mediation,” a front-end effort to deal with complaints before they go to a hearing. The process involves a judge or quasi-judge assessing the evidence and telling both sides what their chances are in front of a tribunal hearing.

A trial before a trial. How nice!

Another knee-slapper:

Lawyers with expertise in human rights cases fear the measure is a blunt instrument that will intimidate complainants without legal representation and who are almost always up against well-funded government departments or federally regulated industries such as banks or telecommunications firms.

The lawyers also say that “evaluative mediation” comes too early in the process.

“The parties don’t even know the strength or weaknesses or full details of their cases,” said veteran human rights lawyer Peter Engelmann. “Complainants carry the burden of proof, so it has a particularly onerous impact.”
Oh no, they have to prove their case! That's awful! [/sarcasm]

Other lawyers point out that tribunal cases are often won or lost during the actual hearing when witnesses give evidence.

No way! You mean the hearing rested on the evidence. For shame!