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16 years, and still no justice. Firefighter tells NS Human Rights Commission to do the right thing

Kathy Symington, Lina eTessier and Judy Haiven at yesterday’s press conference. Contributed.

KJIPUKUK (Halifax) – Two veteran women firefighters, employed for years by the Halifax Fire Service, expressed their shock and anger at the recent decision by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC).

Kathy Symington, and Liane Tessier both had their original complaints of gender discrimination and harassment dismissed by the NSHRC. On Tuesday the two women spoke at a press conference at Province House.

Symington, an experienced firefighter, joined the Halifax Fire Service 20 years ago — in 1997.  She was one of five female firefighters on the force.  Not only was she verbally and physically harassed, she was the subject of lies  (for instance that she was sleeping with male firefighters), innuendo and subject to violence and threats by colleagues.

“My car was vandalized three times; the sexual rumours went around and I could not stop them from demeaning me; in addition the bosses and the co-workers set up a totally poisoned work environment,”  said Symington.

After filing a complaint with the NSHRC in 2002, it took until 2006 for the Commission to tell her that her complaint had been  “discontinued “– or dismissed — no reasons given.

In 2013-13, she filed another complaint of discrimination on the basis of disability, sex discrimination and retaliation.  Four years later, in 2018, the Commission told her it would only recommend proceeding on one of her complaints – that she was denied top-up pay while she was on maternity leave.  But there were more than 100 incidents of harassment and discrimination on the record, and the Commission decided not to investigate them, or act on them.

Liane Tessier, who won her case at the NSHRC in Dec. 2017, spoke about the fact that systemic discrimination was at the heart of the problems in the Fire Service.  “In December, the Fire Chief and HRM publicly apologized to me and to all women affected because of systemic gender discrimination in the Fire Service.  There were recommendations for changes but we have no knowledge that any of the recommendations were implemented. Kathy Symington’s case mirrors mine – the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission should be looking at her case in light of mine, and go after the Fire Service and HRM on the basis of systemic gender discrimination – but they are only looking at one small incident.”

“This is an insult to all women who face systemic gender discrimination,” notes Tessier.

On Sept. 20 and 21, the Commission’s CEO meets with the 10 appointed Commissioners in Digby. It is there that they will decide which cases to send to a Board of Inquiry and which cases to dismiss.  Kathy Symington is demanding the Commission look at her entire case, all 100 plus incidents, not just the one about maternity top-up.

“I’ve waited 16 years for justice,” Symington said. “The Commission is not accountable and not listening.  I deserve to have my case properly investigated.”

Liane Tessier and Judy Haiven are founding members of Equity Watch, an organization dedicated to fighting discrimination and bullying  in the workplace.

For more information on the Symington case and Equity Watch, contact Judy Haiven (902) 718-7445 or equitywatchns@gmail.com


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One Comment

  1. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission is an extension of the legal community’s reach that works favourably for government – but they pretend they are a competent commission on behalf of and for the people. The Commission’s status quo stance, allows them to make decisions that advantage government and protect government’s interests – not the other way around. The Commission does what government says to do and its effectiveness keeps government safe and unexposed. The Commission will find some legal loophole rule of procedure that nullifies the professional identity of the vulnerable. Patronizing rhetoric justifies these indignities by the same old status quo doctrine of governmental sheeples. This practice doesn’t make it fair, respectful, dignified or even credible – but they have the power. The targeted vulnerable in the workplace don’t have any power. Deliberate and collective systemic discrimination of employees in the workplace occurs – daily – most of the time. Bullying in the workplace is epidemic in the western world yet the empirical evidence to support this is suppressed – ignored. They – the employers with government “acts of narcissism” work to dismiss, discredit and demoralize the good (whistleblowing) citizen who has a legitimate and courageous complaint of systemic (gender) harassment and intimidation. An example of governmental abuse of power (led by a team of lawyers and spin doctors) is in the action taken against Nova Scotia’s 10,000.00 educators and 30,000 parents in 2017 and 2018. If a government doesn’t like a statute, they change the law to suit themselves. This unkindly act of abuse of power and process does not consider the harmful impact that is negligently inflicted upon the professional, psychological, emotional, and economical security of the claimant – inalienable rights. Doug Ford (Ontario) got the power and used it to have his autocratic way and ensure every elected conservative member voted his way (i.e. Toronto’s city hall under deconstruction was not democratic – autocracy ruled) – similar to McNeil in Nova Scotia for the last four winters with respect to health care and education. Legal loopholes favour government and the organization deliberately – they write the laws out of self-interest – probably. None of these shenanigans (considered wrongdoings) by Doug Ford or Stephen McNeil (with their underlings and legal team) are done in good faith or professional and ethical or duty. Fairness is made moot – everyone conforms to follow the leader. Didn’t former President Barack Obama and Nobel Prize recipient muse last week in broadcasting his lessons in humanity with reference to Donald Trump? Didn’t Obama say: “You are supposed to stand up to bullies – not follow them”.
    Case in Point: Nova Scotia and Ontario are mirroring and modeling one another don’t you think?
    September 19, 2018

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