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Montreal, July 28, 2010 --- The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal’s latest decision is a disturbing indictment of the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission’s excessively long investigation and should send alarm signals about the state of civil rights protection in Quebec.

In Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec (pour Association des cadres de la Société des Casinos du Québec) c. Société des Casinos du Québec, a decision dated July 19, 2010, involving disability and pregnancy-based discrimination directed at Hull Casino employees, the Tribunal found that the Commission took too long to complete its investigation and bring the case before the Tribunal—a period of almost seven years. The complaint was filed back in 2003.

Due to the excessively delay, including gaps in the investigation timeline for which the Commission could not provide any reasonable explanation, the Defendant Société des Casinos du Québec (SCQ), introduced a motion to have the entire case dismissed. Courts in Canada have found that excessive delays in Commissions’ investigations create prejudice for the Defendants and over-long investigations have consequently been dismissed.

In this case, however, although the Tribunal found that the 73-month delay was excessive, it did not rule in favor of the SCQ. Rather, it ordered an accelerated hearing to prevent the victims from being deprived a forum to seek redress, (namely, the Tribunal). It also noted that the SCQ did not raise the excessive delay argument until October 2009 and that it failed to prove harm due to the delay.

This is not the first time that the Tribunal has taken a strong position on excessive delays in the Commission’s handling of complaints. In its 2006 Pandamis decision, the Tribunal dismissed a case brought by the Commission against the Pandamis Child Care Center after the Commission took 57 months to complete its investigation and was unable to justify long delays and gaps in its investigative timeline.

Excessive delays in the Commission’s investigations have increasingly become a serious access to justice issue for discrimination victims. CRARR has documented several cases of racial discrimination, and particularly racial discrimination in employment, where the Commission investigation has been excessively long (up to 5 years) due to problems such as the following:

  • frequent changes of investigators, each new one having to study the file from the beginning;
  • set aside of the investigation for periods lasting to one year, without explanation;
  • incorrect analysis of a complaint, resulting in misdirected investigations and misleading and incomplete investigation reports (these are the reports which commissioners read to decide whether or not to reject the complaint or refer it to the Tribunal);
  • inexplicable dismissal of complainants’ witnesses and information to support their allegations, resulting in biased and incomplete investigations;
  • and

  • supervisors and managers not replying for months (in some cases, up to four months) to complainants’ simple questions about the state of the investigation when investigators themselves refuse to provide this information.
  • Although CRARR has brought these problems to various government ministers (as well as members of the PQ Opposition) in recent months, the Quebec Government has adopted the position that the Commission is an independent agency that is the master of its own rules of operation and the Government has no obligation of oversight. The Commission reports to the National Assembly.

    Due to the recurrence of the problem, CRARR has brought this situation to the attention of United Nations officials such as the Independent Expert on Minority Rights, Ms. Gay McDougall, who noted the problem in her report on Canada after her visit last Fall.

    Persons wanting to file complaints with the Commission are encouraged to get assistance from groups like CRARR or lawyers with proven experiences in human rights. Complainants who are faced with excessive delays (15 months or more) or problems with the Commission's investigation, especially in cases involving racism, can also contact CRARR for help; they can also contact the office of Quebec Justice Minister Kathleen Weil (the minister responsible for the human rights commission) or their local Member of the National Assembly, to voice their complaints.

    Read the court decision (in French only):

    Read also:

    2010-07-19_CDPDJ_Arnone_c_Societe_des_casinos_du_Quebec.pdf58.81 KB