Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When human rights tribunals go not so wild

This seems a little over the top in its presentation: "Human Rights Tribunal rules it can name university deans." Front page banner headline worthy on the National Post site tonight. The headline suggests a tribunal with visions of grandeur, an unchecked administrative colossus that might pick off university deans left, right and center. The report, however, deals with one human rights complaint emanating out of a decanal struggle at the University of Windsor's law school. A remedy sought by the professor in question is to have the present search for a new dean halted and to have her appointed to the typical term as dean. She had been a finalist for the position when a colleague raised plagiarism allegations against her. The search was started anew and the professor launched a human rights complaint over the allegations, alleging sexism and racism. In human rights complaints, it's not uncommon for a remedy that's sought to be reinstatement to a job. The remedy sought will clearly seek to make the complainant whole, to in fact remedy the perceived wrong.

The report indicates that the Human Rights Tribunal has only given an interim decision affirming that while it hasn't ruled on the specific discrimination allegations in this case, it does have the power to appoint the aggrieved professor as dean should a finding of discrimination be made down the road. The tribunal doesn't say that it will, and it even downplays the option by saying that if there's a new dean in place, that could affect the tribunal actually going ahead with a decanal appointment. But it does reserve the right. I would think that would be a strong message to the law school now, who appear to have hopelessly bungled this one, to try anew to settle the case. 

This sounds like a very rare case with the remedy being sensationalized here a bit, no doubt given the ongoing present day scrutiny of human rights tribunals that the right has been sowing. There may be a desire here to pump up the case as the latest example of human rights tribunals gone wild. But it just so happens that the woman here is a professor vying for a deanship who claims she's been unfairly discriminated against. The remedy may very well be warranted and all parties involved agree it's available.