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Liane Tessier: The Human Rights Commission is every bit as bad as HRM

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Former firefighter Liane Tessier, who recently received an apology from the Halifax fire chief, is not happy with the wording of a press release about her case posted on the website of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Photo Robert Devet

“I don’t trust the Human Rights Commission, and I don’t think other people should trust them,” Tessier tells the Nova Scotia Advocate, reflecting on the lack of support from the Commission she experienced while she fought for justice.

While employed at the Halifax Fire Services Tessier suffered systemic gender discrimination and was treated just horribly by colleagues, chiefs, the city’s management, and HRM’s human resources department.

The thing is, after she issued a human rights complaint in 2007 she was treated equally horribly by the Human Rights Commission. After five years of almost cartoonishly mismanaging the investigation, the Commission decided that Tessier’s claim had no merit and should not be pursued.

Tessier had no choice but to take the Commission to court.

At the Nova Scotia Supreme Court Tessier argued that Human Rights Commission 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. The Commission was ordered to pay damages to Tessier, and to re-start the investigation from scratch.

Now that three and a half years later Tessier finally received a (wishy washy) apology from HRM, the Human Rights Commission issued a press release that doesn’t mention that court case and doesn’t acknowledge its far from stellar role in her victory.

“They use a quote that they got from my blog that makes it sound like we were a happy family fighting together for the same goal, while they were against me for all these years,” Tessier says.  

Tessier complained in an email, and as a result her quote has since been removed from the news release.

In the press release the Commission refers to the 10 years it took to resolve the case.

“We’re sorry that Ms. Tessier had to go through such a lengthy process in order for this matter to come to resolution,” the release quotes Kymberly Franklin, Senior Legal Counsel at the NSHRC as saying.

Phrased that way it reads as if the delay was just one of those things that can’t be helped, like the weather. Tessier isn’t buying it.

They fought tooth and nail against me having that judicial review, and by doing that they perpetuated the gender discrimination. They’re every bit as bad as HRM,” Tessier says.

We asked the Human Rights Commission to respond on Monday morning. We will update this story to reflect that response when we receive it.

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One Comment

  1. While I didn’t experience the extreme time delays that Ms.Tessier experienced in attempting to have her case heard before the N.S. Human Rights Commission, I do believe that the process in my case was flawed, that the adjudicator did not have a background in nor did she appreciate disability issues and, in the end, that the decision was based on a question that was different from the original. During the earlier steps of my complaint , I felt supported and heard, but on the day of the hearing, the adjudicator demonstrated bias towards the organization against which my complaint was filed and was swayed by charts and graphs that were irrelevant and served only to obfuscate the organization’s part in the complaint we were there to address. Further, there was information shared which had names of clients who weren’t part of the complaint inadequately blacked out, such that I was able to read personal information about these individuals, many of whom were known to me. All in all, my disappointment with the experience went far beyond the fact that the adjudicator didn’t rule in my favour. I felt that the hearing was very sloppy and failed to adequately address the complaint.

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