Ms. Ennis was hired as the manager of the Prince Albert Elks Club (the “Club”). She was fired approximately two weeks later after the Club learned that she was married to a convicted murderer. Ms. Ennis filed a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, alleging discrimination because of marital status. The Board of Inquiry did not find discrimination based on marital status as defined in the Regulations. The Court of Appeal disagreed.

22. October 2002 0

Administrative law – Human rights complaints – Discrimination – Marital status

Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Prince Albert Elks Club Inc., [2002] S.J. No. 552, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, September 26, 2002, Vancise, Lane and Jackson JJ.A.

Ms. Ennis married Mr. Ennis in 1993 while he was serving a life sentence at a penitentiary for six counts of second degree murder. Penitentiary regulations permitted Ms. Ennis to visit her husband four times per week. In 1998, Ms. Ennis was hired as club manager at the Elks Club in Prince Albert.

While visiting her husband, Ms. Ennis was spotted by a prison guard who was also a member of the Club. Ms. Ennis’ marriage was reported to club management who concluded that Ms. Ennis’ marriage to an individual serving a life sentence created a general security risk. For this reason, Ms. Ennis was dismissed from her position. Ms. Ennis filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of marital status. A Board of Inquiry determined the Elks Club discriminated against Ms. Ennis because of her marriage but found that the discrimination was not based on marital status as defined in the regulations which had an exception stating that “discrimination on the basis of a relationship with a particular person is not discrimination on the basis of marital status”.

The Commission appealed the decision to the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, where it was held that the Board properly interpreted the meaning of the Regulation. The case was further appealed to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, where Vancise J.A. for the majority concluded that the Human Rights Code seeks to eliminate discrimination based on grounds relating to personal characteristics of individuals or groups. The Board concluded that there was no general discrimination because the decision to refuse to continue to employ Ms. Ennis was due to her association with a specific individual. This, however, was an error in law as the Club’s reason for the termination was that Ms. Ennis’ husband was a member of a group. The appeal was allowed and the Respondent was ordered to pay compensation in the amount of $2,000.00 to Ms. Ennis.

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