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Human Rights Office Investigating More Complaints

Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from the Winnipeg Free Press, January 27, 2006.

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission was busier than ever before in 2004. According to the 2004 annual report, the commission received 382 complaints in 2004, an increase of 12 percent over 2003, and a whopping increase of 155 percent in the last decade.

"It's not insignificant," said Dianna Scarth, the commission's executive director.

Among the complaints the office resolved was one involving a property manager who was found to have discriminated against a potential renter by refusing to rent her an apartment without a co-signer, which the commission said was discrimination based on income.

A doctor was forced to change his policy on accepting patients after a 62-year-old complained the doctor said he wasn't accepting any more patients over the age of 50.

And the registrar of Motor Vehicles had to change a policy that automatically restricted the licence of a driver who had problems with peripheral vision. The registrar agreed to allow the man to undergo testing to determine whether he needed restrictions, rather than base it on a one-size-fits-all standard.

Scarth said she thinks the increase in complaints has come because of a greater awareness of the office itself, education campaigns making people more aware of their rights, and a number of Supreme Court of Canada rulings that led others to realize they were being discriminated against.

Almost 42 percent of the complaints handled involved people with physical and mental disabilities, a sharp rise from the 19 percent those complaints represented in 1994.

"We see that as a positive thing," Scarth said.

She said many of the complaints the commission gets are no longer straightforward, such as a person in a wheelchair unable to get into a building.

"They're more complicated issues, and the obligation of employers has changed," she said.

She said most of the time the discrimination is inadvertent and can be dealt with without a major fuss. Sixty-one percent of the complaints in 2004 were settled through mediation or conciliation, and 42 percent were dealt with within three months.

C. Winnipeg Free Press. Reprinted with permission.

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