On May 5, 2020, Barrier Free Saskatchewan (BFSK) sent a letter of of concern about the SaskatchewanHuman Right Commission. and its failure to uphold its obligations to protect the rights of people with disabilities. In this letter, BFSK is calling on the Saskatchewan government to conduct a complete and independent review of SHRC’s policies, procedures, and practices.

Read the letter of concern (below) to learn more.

Barrier Free Saskatchewan
“Let’s be accessible”
Endorse BFSK at barrierfreesaskatchewan.org

The Honourable Scott Moe
Premier of Saskatchewan
226 Legislative Building
Regina, Saskatchewan
May 5, 2020

Dear Honourable Scott Moe:

Barrier Free Saskatchewan (BFSK) is writing to you to advise you that our organization and members of the Disability Community have lost faith with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) due to its current inaction with our complaints. Accordingly, we are calling on the Saskatchewan government to conduct a complete independent review of the SHRC practices, policies, and informal and formal complainant files.

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission web site defines discrimination as outlined below:

Discrimination is unfair action taken against others because they belong to a certain group.

It denies people benefits and opportunities that are necessary for a decent life, like jobs or housing.

Discrimination can flow from prejudice, negative stereotypes, or a failure to consider the needs of others.

Sometimes discrimination is deliberate and direct. For instance, discrimination can take the form of racist insults, sexual harassment, or the refusal to hire people because of their age or religion.

Discrimination can also be indirect or unintentional. One example is a public service or office that can only be reached by a flight of stairs. People who use walkers or wheelchairs will be unable to use the service, even though no one intends to exclude them.

The SHRC’s current response to complaints presented by persons with disabilities does not reflect its adherence to its own principles in these matters.

Over the past several years the SHRC has dismissed hundreds if not thousands of complaints presented by persons with disabilities on the pretext that said complaints did not adequately prove the occurrence of discrimination.

A main issue of contention is the way SHRC and persons with disabilities view the complaint. SHRC views all complaints as “informal,” while complainants have been led to believe that complaints are official i.e. “formal.” Consequently, hundreds of complaints are not deemed official and are not resolved and are dismissed. This process does not allow the complaints that are put forward to be included as official numbers in the SHRC report presented to the Saskatchewan Legislature.

Some examples of dismissed cases are outlined below.

  1. Over five hundred complaints were filed against restaurants by persons with disabilities in Saskatchewan due to inaccessibility. For example, the SHRC has approved a recently renovated restaurant’s use of an entrance at the rear of its establishment, used for supply receivables, for those who use walkers and wheelchairs. Failure to address this and other complaints has resulted in the inability of persons with disabilities to enjoy many restaurants that abled bodied Saskatchewan citizens take for granted.
  2. Numerous documented complaints regarding workplace accommodations and the inability of persons with disabilities to engage in core functions of their job descriptions have also been dismissed. SHRC informed one complainant in the area of workplace compliance that their clearly outlined case was dismissed based on the provision of too much information. Failure to address workplace accommodation matters can lead to unemployment and/or physical health issues.
  3. Crown Corporation’s internal and external websites do not meet the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards as per its Web Content Accessible Level AA guidelines. Furthermore, their software and systems are not even accessible with the use of adaptive technologies such as JAWS (the world’s most popular speech screen reader). This also effects persons with disabilities completion of job requirements and employability.
  4. The newly acclaimed Saskatoon Remai Modern Art Gallery ($86,000,000.00) is not accessible which is a building code violation, knowing and Refusal to address this discriminates against persons with disabilities denies them access to cultural and arts attendance granted to able bodied persons.
  5. Non-Drivers License Identification issued by Saskatchewan Government Insurance and the Provincial Health Care Card Issued by eHealth Saskatchewan are in no way, shape, or form accessible. The inability to possess these documents denies people needed services. For some unexplained reason SHRC finds no issue with this.

Barrier Free Saskatchewan believes that as a result of its current actions and decisions, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission has failed persons with Living Experience and no longer has credibility within the community of persons with disabilities. It appears that the only recourse to rectify this situation is for the Saskatchewan Government to conduct and engage in an independent review of all complaints made by persons with disabilities to ensure they are adequately and properly addressed based on the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, the Constitution of Canada, and the United Nations Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. We look forward to a response to our request in the near future,

Barrier Free Saskatchewan