Councillor files human rights complaint

By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer

No one is saying very much after a member of Claresholm town council filed a human rights complaint.

Approximately 25 people attended a special meeting of council on Feb. 1, at which most of the meeting was conducted in-camera, or in private without the public present.

Those who attend in-camera sessions are prevented from sharing those in-camera discussions with anyone else.

When council reverted to open session, they approved two motions.

The first was to accept for information a presentation made by Coun. Donna Courage.

The second directed administration to work with legal counsel to prepare a response to the human rights complaint filed by Courage.

After the meeting, Mayor Doug MacPherson said he could not comment on the contents of the complaint or anything discussed in-camera.

However, he did say council will be consulting with their lawyer and there is no timeline on the matter.

He also said council will continue to do their work.

“We’ll carry on business as usual,” he said. “We’re not going to shut down the town over it.”

Council also held a special meeting at 7:07 a.m. on Jan. 31, where much of the discussion was held in-camera, and the only motion made in open session was to direct administration to contact legal counsel for advice with respect to the legal matter.

At both meetings, Courage declared a pecuniary interest and left the meetings before discussion began.

According to information from the Alberta Human Rights Commission, the Alberta Human Rights Act protects people from discrimination in Alberta based on the protected grounds listed below, whether the protected grounds are real or perceived. A complaint must be based on at least one of these protected grounds including: age; ancestry; family status; gender; gender expression; gender identity; marital status; mental disability; physical disability; place of origin; race; religious beliefs; sexual orientation; and source of income.

After a complaint is accepted there are different ways to respond.

The commission can offer conciliation, which is a voluntary way of resolving differences.

If the complaint cannot be resolved, the complainant can proceed to investigation.

From there, the commission can ask the parties to attempt to resolve the complaint.

A remedy, which can be financial or non‑financial, is intended to restore the complainant to the position he or she would have been in if a contravention of the act had not occurred. It is not intended to punish the respondent.

If the parties are still unable to resolve the complaint, it can be referred to a human rights tribunal. These are like court, but less formal.

Tribunal hearings are also open to the public as are their decisions.