Warren (Gus) Reed is among the complainants who after a long uphill battle won a Nova Scotia Human Rights Tribunal decision on the need for restaurants to provide wheelchair accessible washrooms. They had to take the Commission to court to even get that tribunal. Now the government and the Commission continue to stall, engaged in a restorative justice practice it is refusing to levy fines and give the order the muscle it needs.
To the Human Rights Commissioners:
I understand my complaint about the lack of enforcement of the Food Safety Order, investigation report and submissions will go before the Commissioners at the meeting to be held on June 24th and 25th.
I would like to reiterate that the Food Safety complaint, filed in June 2017, identified discriminatory health practices that are identical to those that caused so many deaths during the present pandemic.
Our carefully researched and crafted complaint foresaw the epidemiological consequences of poorly conceived and enforced public health measures. We wanted to wash our hands, but Dr. Strang thought it unreasonable. That we had to resort to a Human Rights complaint is preposterous.
The government response to the Board of Inquiry order, something they called ‘restorative justice’, was irresponsible. The subject of this complaint, your failure to enforce the order by levying fines, continues to threaten public safety.
Today is the 643rd day without enforcement of the Board of Inquiry order. 1413 days since you rejected the first complaint on jurisdictional grounds, 1170 days since the Supreme Court rejected your logic. Worse yet, the government has been so indifferent to the science that public health continues to be threatened.
The ‘Restorative Justice’ process, endorsed by you, pitted 19 highly paid public servants, one interested citizen and 8 industry representatives against two unpaid wheelchair users. Where is your sense of fair play and proportion? Clearly, the government favors business over people. Given that over half of human rights complaints refer to disability, one might ask if any of you are people with disabilities? One has only to read the recent Board of Inquiry decision of J. Walter Thompson QC to appreciate how deep the bias runs.
My present complaint against the Human Rights Commission and the ministries of health, environment and justice goes to the heart of government indifference to the needs of people with disabilities.
Even when we go to great lengths to be heard we are met with unconcern. Have you read Catch-22? Imagine filing a hopeful complaint with the Human Rights commission. Discovering that, like many other arms of government, the Commission will go to great lengths to do nothing. Discovering the cozy relationship between the Commission and the Department of Justice. Discovering that counsel arguing against us is the same attorney giving advice on ‘restorative justice’. Shocking at first, but one becomes intimately familiar with government’s overall plan to do nothing. And these paragons of justice forbid complainants attorneys from having a role in restorative justice. They determine whether fines can be levied against themselves.
Being disabled in Nova Scotia is no cakewalk. There is discrimination at every turn. Employment, health, income, education, transportation – you name it – people with disabilities face discrimination.
The Black Lives Matter movement resonates with us. In Nova Scotia, in this instance, four departments, including yourselves, have a knee on us.
I ask nothing for myself, only a $1000 per day fine against the three government ministries and yourselves, from the date of the order to your decision, to be used for public health in restaurants.
Warren Reed, 2015 Nova Scotia Human Rights Award
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