How are Human Rights Protected in Alberta?
In Alberta, individuals are protected from discrimination pursuant to the Alberta Human Rights Act (“the Act”). The Act protects against discrimination that occurs based on a number of protected grounds in connection with several protected areas. Under the Act, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual on the basis of:
- Place of Origin
- Religious Beliefs
- Gender (including pregnancy and gender identity or expression)
- Physical Disability
- Mental Disability
- Marital Status
- Family Status
- Source of Income
- Sexual Orientation
In the areas of:
- Employment Practices (including job postings, interviewing and hiring)
- Goods, Services, Accommodations or Facilities customarily available to the public
- Notices and Publications (such as newspapers)
- Membership in a Trade Union
What Can I Do If I Am Facing Potential Discrimination in Alberta?
If you believe that you have experienced harassment or discrimination based on a protected ground, you may be able to file a human rights complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. It is important to keep in mind that not all complaints are accepted by the Commission, and must meet the specific criteria set out in the Act.
How Do I File a Human Rights Complaint in Alberta?
A human rights complaint must be made within one year of the alleged incident of discrimination. In addition, the incident of discrimination must have occurred in Alberta, and it must fall within the jurisdiction of the Commission. This means that not all negative or unfair treatment will fall under the protected areas and protected grounds governed by the Act. Although most workplaces in Alberta fall under provincial jurisdiction, there are some industries (such as Airlines, Railways and Trucking Companies) which fall under federal jurisdiction, and are governed by the Canadian Human Rights Act instead of by provincial human rights legislation.
A complaint can be filed by completing and submitting the complaint form found on the Commission’s website. Once the complaint is received, it will be reviewed, and a decision will be made regarding whether the commission will accept the complaint. If your complaint is not accepted, you may be able to appeal this decision.
What Happens if My Complaint is Accepted?
Once the complaint is accepted, the Commission will contact the other party (the respondent) and notify them that a complaint has been made against them. The respondent then has 30 days to file a response to the complaint. Once the response is received, a Human Rights Officer will review both the complaint and the response and determine whether the complaint can be resolved through an early resolution process. When the resolution process is complete, the Officer will submit a recommendation to the Director of the Commission regarding whether the complaint has a reasonable basis to proceed. The Director of the Commission may dismiss or discontinue the complaint, or refer the complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal for a formal hearing.
Can I Represent Myself?
Yes. The Human Rights Complaint process is largely designed for self-represented litigants. However, the process can get more complicated, especially if a complaint is referred to a Tribunal Hearing, or if your complaint is denied, and you choose to appeal the decision. Therefore, if you are thinking about filing a human rights complaint, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a lawyer, who can advise you on the process, your available options, and any defences or arguments that may be raised by the respondent.
At West Legal, we are here to find options to fit your specific needs. Whether you want full representation, or simply want to retain us to draft your complaint, or other required submissions or responses, we are happy to provide affordable flexible legal options that work for you.