Court Upholds Tribunal Decision that Race Discrimination Formed Basis of Employer Actions

Canada (Attorney General) v. Uzoaba (1995), 26 C.H.R.R. D/428 (F.C.T.D.)

This is an application for judicial review of a decision of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The Tribunal found that Dr. Julius Uzoaba was discriminated against because of his race while he was employed by the Correctional Service of Canada ("CSC"). CSC was ordered to offer Dr. Uzoaba a position at the WP-5 level without inmate contact at the first reasonable opportunity.

The Attorney General of Canada argues that the Tribunal erred in finding that the CSC contravened the Canadian Human Rights Act, and further erred by ordering the CSC to reinstate Dr. Uzoaba at the WP-5 level, which would constitute a promotion from the WP-3 classification officer position which he held at the time his rights were violated.

The Tribunal found that Dr. Uzoaba was discriminated against because of his race because the CSC relied in its evaluation of Dr. Uzoaba's performance on statements and actions of the inmates of Collins Bay Institution which were, in part, motivated by racial bias.

The Attorney General of Canada argues that the CSC should not be held liable for the actions of inmates at a prison. However, the Court finds that the Tribunal did not find CSC liable because of the racist beliefs or actions of prisoners. Rather the Tribunal found that management in its dealings with Dr. Uzoaba relied on acts, statements and a petition from the prisoners at Collins Bay which were racially motivated, and it was this that amounted to discrimination contrary to the Act. The Court finds that there was evidence before the Tribunal that discrimination was a basis for the employer's actions at least with respect to the performance appraisal and the petition. This is sufficient to put the employer in violation of the Act.

The Attorney General argues that the Tribunal cannot order CSC to reinstate Dr. Uzoaba at the WP-5 level because this would constitute a promotion, and the scheme for promotion in the Public Service Employment Act cannot be overruled by a Human Rights Tribunal. However, the Court finds that if there is a conflict with the Public Service Employment Act, the Human Rights Act must prevail because it is paramount. There was evidence on which the Tribunal could base its decision that Dr. Uzoaba should be reinstated at the WP-5 level, and that puts the matter beyond the reach of the Court.

The application is dismissed.

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