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lundi 29 octobre 2012

Balancing the Human Rights Commission’s broad discretion in choosing the victims it represents with the rules of procedural fairness


By Ashley Kandestin
De Grandpré Chait S.E.N.C.R.L./LLP
 
In Pinay (Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec) c. Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (2012 QCCS 4965), Justice Thomas Davis dismisses a motion under 165 (4) of the Code of Civil Procedure ("CCP"), by which the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse ("Commission”) sought to dismiss a motion in judicial review of a resolution it passed in May of 2012.
 
The Commission is a legal body created by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (“Quebec Charter”), with the purpose of putting into practice the tenets of this quasi-constitutional piece of legislation. The functions of the Commission consist namely of receiving complaints based on cases of discrimination under the Quebec Charter, in investigating the merits of the supposed violation, in attempting to foster a settlement between the victim and the violator of the victim’s fundamental rights and in representing the victim of the discriminatory act before the appropriate tribunal, usually the province’s Human Rights Tribunal. Concerning these functions, the Commission has, under sections 77 and 78 of the Quebec Charter, a broad discretion when deciding to cease representing the victim, a discretion that was exercised when it resolved to divest itself from the complaint filed by Pinay.

Pinay sought a judicial review before the Superior Court of the Commission’s decision. Justice Davis explains that the Commission is held to a standard of procedural fairness at the investigatory stage of any complaint filed by a supposed victim of discrimination, making no ruling on this specific question as he was not sitting on the merits of Pinay’s motion but rather on a preliminary motion to dismiss. Bound by the terminology of section 165 (4) CCP, Justice Davis deemed himself unable to grant the motion to dismiss for the following reasons:
"[32] In considering the Commission’s Motion to Dismiss the Court must, at this stage, consider Plaintiffs’ Motion for Judicial Review as if all the facts alleged therein are true. In doing so the Court is unable to share the Commission’s position that the motion contains no allegations of a lack of procedural fairness, even considering the limited definition accepted by Justice Roy.
[33] Plaintiffs allege:
that the Commission undertook its investigation following a delay of 6 months;
that the Commission did not follow its own regulations and administrative policies;
that when the Commission met some of the complainants, it did not explain the investigative process to them;
that the involvement of other individuals in the alleged discriminatory acts was not considered;
that essential elements of an appropriate investigation were not carried out;
that there were factual errors in the correspondence of the investigator to Plaintiffs.
[34] Both of the judgments relied on by the Commission to underline the importance of its discretion were rendered on the merits of the matter. It may be that Plaintiffs will be unable to demonstrate that the alleged acts of the Commission amount to a failure to respect procedural fairness, but at this stage the Court cannot deny them the opportunity to present their case on the merits. Only following a full hearing will allow the Court to adjudicate on the validity of Plaintiffs’ claims."
 

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