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Nelligan Law is representing Parkdale Community Legal Services (“PCLS”) in a constitutional challenge to remove damages caps from the Canadian Human Rights Act.

For Immediate release:  June 13th, 2022

A copy of the Notice of Application can be found here.

Currently, the Canadian Human Rights Act (the “CHRA”) sets out the process for bringing a human rights complaint against a federally regulated entity. A federally regulated entity includes the Federal Government itself, as well as banks, airlines, postal services, tv and radio broadcasting, railways, and many others. CHRA limits the amount of damages you can seek for pain and suffering to $20,000.00 and special compensation to $20,000.00.

That means, for example, if you suffer harassment or discrimination in a federal workplace or denied a bank loan for a discriminatory reason, you must file a CHRA complaint to the Commission, and your compensation is limited to that outlined above.

While the CHRA may have initially been designed to provide an accessible forum for victims of discrimination to advance their claims, in practice, this is no longer the case. PCLS lawyer, John No  explains:

“For our clients and the communities we serve, the federal human rights process is slow and resource intensive, and then the CHRA artificially limits their damages because of these caps.

We represent individuals in Ontario workplaces, including survivors of sexual violence and harassment, who are able to seek their full damages for a breach of their human rights, sometimes receiving damages in the hundreds of thousands for mental distress. We also represent employees in federal workplaces. Their identical claims are limited to $20,000.”

PCLS is challenging the damages cap on the basis that the CHRA does not satisfy the guarantee of equal protection and benefit of the law set out in section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

By arguing that the Canadian Human Rights Act (the “CHRA”) is unconstitutional because of its cap on pain and suffering, and special damages, PCLS is pursuing justice for equity seeking groups. Mr. No explains the reason for the challenge: “If the Canadian government is serious about preventing harassment and discrimination it needs to be reflected in the legislation.”

PCLS is a community legal clinic that aims to tackle poverty law issues through a combination of community development, organizing and action facilitated by legal representation, summary legal advice, and public legal education.

Nelligan Law is grateful for the opportunity to work with PCLS on this important constitutional challenge, to advocate for an equitable process for victims of discrimination to seek justice.

The challenge was filed on Friday June 10th, 2022.

Contact information:

Andrew Montague-Reinholdtandrew.montague-reinholdt@nelliganlaw.ca (613-231-8244)

Claire Kane Boychukclaire.boychuk@nelliganlaw.ca (613-231-8211)

John No – john.no@pcls.clcj.ca (416-531-2411, ext 227)

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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