Thursday, January 03, 2008

Sandblasting a Talking Point Into Oblivion

Back here, someone left the following comment:

Does the fact that no Canadian HRC complaint has EVER been denied give you pause for concern about the legitimacy of this institution?

The statement itself is patently false. The CHRC's own Annual Report shows it quite clearly:

There were 1,074 final decisions rendered by the Commission in 2006. Of these:

* 384 or 36% were decisions not to deal with a complaint pursuant to section 40/41 of the Act. ...

* In the remaining 690 cases, the Commission dealt with the complaints on their merits and ultimately made a decision either to dismiss the complaint, approve a settlement or refer the matter to Tribunal.

* The 297 dismissed cases represented 43% of all cases dealt with by the Commission in 2006. ...

* A total of 278 cases were settled. This represents 40% of all cases dealt with in 2006. ...

* A total of 115 cases were referred to the Tribunal in 2006, a number similar to the previous two years.

So, in short, right out of the gate, a little over 1/3 of all cases don't even get beyond the initial evaluation.

Of those that do, it's roughly an even split between those that are dismissed, and those that are settled, and a handful (around 10%) get referred to the Tribunal process.

Similar results can be found for the Alberta Human Rights Commission in their annual report (see p. 23 of 48)

Having established that the talking point our commenter posted is complete nonsense, I'd like to go a little further with it.

In some respects, I view a human rights complaint as little different to lodging a complaint with the police. I certainly do not expect that charges will be laid necessarily, but I do expect my concerns to be taken somewhat seriously.

One example that I can think of happened a few years ago when some slightly unhinged individual left a series of "door hangers" on doors in my neighborhood that contained threats against several police officers, along with a request for their home addresses.

To my knowledge, charges were never laid in that case, but my expectation was that the police take enough interest to determine if the threat was real or simply the ravings of a complete loon.

Similarly, if a human rights complaint is filed, there is a requirement for at least enough due diligence on the part of the commission receiving the complaint to determine if the complaint has any legitimacy at all. I do not demand that every issue raised go through a tribunal process, and in fact few actually go that far.

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