Council of Canadians with Disabilities to Intervene at Supreme Court of Canada Hearing Regarding Access to Justice for Victims of Discrimination

For immediate release

December 10, 2010

(Winnipeg, Manitoba – December 10, 2010) – The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a national human rights organization, will be appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada in Mowat v. Canada (Attorney General), an appeal about access to justice for victims of discrimination. The CCD was granted leave to make written and oral arguments in this matter.

This case involves a woman, Ms. Donna Mowat, who filed a human rights complaint after she experienced sexual harassment at work. According to the Federal Court of Appeal, Ms. Mowat, whose sexual harassment complaint was largely successful, was entitled to only $4000 in compensation, although her legal fees to bring her complaint forward were nearly $200,000.

In this appeal, the Supreme Court will be asked to decide if those who experience discrimination should be reimbursed for their legal costs relating to filing human rights complaints. According to David Baker, counsel for the CCD in this matter “Very often, the legal fees to file complaints and to have them heard by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal are more than what is awarded as compensation to successful complainants. As a result of this, even when victims of discrimination win their cases, they are very often out of pocket several thousands of dollars.”

The CCD will argue that the human rights legislation must be accessible to people who experience discrimination. This is particularly important for people with disabilities who represent the largest proportion of complainants before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

“People with disabilities rely on the human rights legislation to challenge systemic barriers faced by all people with disabilities in housing, employment and services. Without compensation for legal costs, the CCD would not have been able to challenge VIA Rail’s purchase of inaccessible cars,” says Laurie Beachell, of the CCD. “More recently, Peter Hughes’ successful human rights complaint against Elections Canada led to significant changes in polling stations during elections.”

The appeal will be heard Monday, December 13, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. The CCD will be represented by David Baker, of bakerlaw and Paul Champ, of Champ and Associates.



David Baker, Counsel to the Council of Canadians with Disabilities

Laurie Beachell, National Co-ordinator