KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Former firefighter Liane Tessier finally gets her day in court. Tessier faced gender discrimination, retribution and gossip at the Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency department in 2005, and has been trying to get her case heard ever since.
Now the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC) has set aside 10 days starting October 30 for a tribunal to look into Tessier’s allegations.
It’s been an an uphill battle for Tessier every step of the way.
It’s a fight Tessier started in 2005, after falling victim to discrimination and bullying at the male-dominated Herring Cove fire station. What makes her case unusual is that Tessier not only had to do battle with HRM management, she had to take the NSHRC itself to court.
Tessier argued that HRC investigators took too long (five years) to reach a decision, did a bad job investigating, and were wrong to dismiss her case.
Justice Arthur LeBlanc of the Nova Scotia Supreme court agreed on all counts. Key witnesses were not heard, there were numerous delays, and investigators showed bias against Tessier throughout, LeBlanc concluded in May of 2014.
Another three years passed, but finally a date for the tribunal has been set by the NSHRC.
“I only waited 12 years for this, but I am happy that I made it this far, and that I stuck with it for so long, but I still think it’s a joke that I had to take the Human Rights Commission to court,” Tessier says.
The last 12 years have been difficult for Tessier, who no longer works for the fire department. In May 2016 she spoke with the Nova Scotia Advocate about her high legal fees and the emotional toll the fight has taken.
Tessier pays her own lawyer, even though the NSHRC has its lawyer attend the tribunal as well. “It’s going to cost a lot more money, and there is no way I will recuperate that even if the tribunal finds in my favour,” says Tessier.
That’s just the way it is, NSHRC spokesperson Adria May explains.
“Hiring a lawyer is at the discretion of the parties involved. The NSHRC lawyer does not represent the Commission, but the public interest,” writes May.
Tessier has a simple answer when asked why she persisted all these years.
“I am doing this for your daughter, who might want to become a firefighter, and to help stop this nonsense carrying on generation after generation,” she says.
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