Protecting and enforcing human rights is fundamental to a just society. We work with unions, individuals, and organizations in workplaces and communities to bring forward human rights concerns through collective agreement grievance procedures, administrative law hearings, human rights commissions and boards of inquiry, and in the courts. In order to advance these goals we use both legal advocacy and law reform initiatives.
Our equality rights practice addresses a wide range of issues including gender discrimination, sexual and racial harassment, sexual orientation discrimination, religious and political discrimination, discrimination on the basis of disability, drug and alcohol testing in the workplace, and the duty to accommodate.
Our services include:
- advice and representation before Human Rights Commissions, Boards of Inquiry and Tribunals under Ontario’s Human Rights Code and the federal Canadian Human Rights Act;
- advice and representation in the enforcement of the federal Employment Equity Act;
- developing innovative dispute resolution processes for human rights complaints, including those dealing with sexual and racial harassment;
- conducting audits and investigations and reporting on human rights complaints for organizations and human rights commissions.
Notable representations include:
- Association of Ontario Midwives v. Ontario (Health and Long-Term Care), in which the Firm represented the Association of Ontario Midwives in an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ("HRTO"), which alleged that the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care had discriminated against midwives on the basis of sex with respect to their compensation and funding formula. In a landmark ruling, the HRTO found that the Ministry's conduct and inaction resulted in a significant compensation gap between midwives and physicians providing comparable services, which amounted to impermissible systemic discrimination based on sex.
- Talos v. Grand Erie District School Board, in which Wayne Talos, a high school teacher, brought an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ("HRTO") arguing that cutting off his health and dental benefits when he turned 65 was unconstitutional. The firm represented Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario ("ETFO") and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association ("OECTA") as intervenors in the proceeding, in support of Mr. Talos’s position. The HRTO agreed that the policy was unconstitutional. As a result, employers can no longer provide age-differentiated health and life insurance benefits.
- McKinnon v. Ontario (Correctional Services), in which the Firm represented Michael McKinnon in an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario alleging that the Ministry of Correctional Services had discriminated against him based on his Indigenous ancestry. The proceeding lasted for more than 20 years, and is now a leading case on human rights remedies in applications addressing race discrimination. As a result of this case, the Ontario Human Rights Commission entered into a partnership with the Ontario government to work on implementing long-term systemic initiatives to prevent racial discrimination in Ontario correctional institutions.
- McWilliam v. Toronto Police Services Board, in which the Firm represents Heather McWilliam in an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario alleging that the Toronto Police Services Board discriminated against her and carried out acts of reprisal after she complained about alleged sexual harassment, sexual solicitation and sexual advances from her supervisors in the workplace. The alleged conduct includes sexual and sexual comments during every shift, which created a poisoned work environment. Ms. McWilliam also seeks redress for the Board's failure to properly investigate her allegations.
- Canada (Attorney General) v. Johnstone, in which the Firm represented the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund as an intervenor at the Federal Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal confirmed that the Canadian Human Rights Act's prohibition of discrimination based on family status includes parental obligations, such as childcare obligations.