The language used by Parliament in the Canadian Human Rights Act is wide enough to cover its own employees; therefore, the former Speaker of the House of Commons could not evoke the principles of parliamentary privilege in order to prevent the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal from investigating the Respondent’s complaint. However, the Respondent’s complaints could have been adjudicated under the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act which was intended to be the exclusive method of dispute resolution for such employees. As such, the appeal was allowed.

26. July 2005 0

Administrative law – Government – Employees – Human rights complaints – Discrimination – Employment law – Parliamentary employment – Constitutional law – Parliamentary privilege – Application of human rights legislation

Canada (House of Commons) v. Vaid, [2005] S.C.J. No. 28, Supreme Court of Canada, May 20, 2005, McLachlin C.J. and Major, Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella and Charron JJ.

The Respondent, S.V., worked as a chauffeur to successive Speakers of the House of Common between 1984 and 1999. In May 1997, the Respondent’s employment was terminated, and he filed two complaints with the Respondent Human Rights Commission alleging that the Appellant Speaker and the Appellant House of Commons discriminated against him on the basis of his race, colour and national or ethnic origin.

At issue was whether the Canadian Human Rights Act, R.S.C, 1985. c.H-6, was constitutionally inapplicable as a consequence of parliamentary privilege to the House of Commons and its members with respect to matters of parliamentary employment.

The Court held that there was no indication in the language of the Canadian Human Rights Act (the “Act”) that it was not intended to extend to employees of Parliament and there was no reason to think that Parliament intended to impose human rights obligations on every federal employer except itself. The Court further noted that the Act is a quasi-constitutional document and any exemptions from its provision must be clearly stated. The Act therefore applied to the employees of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada.

The Appellants also failed to establish that parliamentary privilege was of such scope as to insulate Members of Parliament from the allegations made in the present case. The Respondents were therefore entitled to have the appeal disposed of according to the ordinary employment and human rights law that Parliament had enacted with respect to employees within federal legislative jurisdiction. However, the Respondent’s workplace complaints could have been adjudicated under the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.33 (2nd Supp.) which was clearly stated to be the exclusive method of dispute resolution for employees such as himself. The appeal was therefore allowed to that extent.

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