The Application by a Claimant (“Rowel”) for judicial review of a decision of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) was dismissed where the Court found that the investigation into Rowel’s complaint was conducted neutrally and thoroughly

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Human Rights Commission – Human rights complaints – Disability – Duty to accommodate – Investigations – Role of Investigator – Procedural fairness – Judicial review – Bias – Failure to provide reasons

Rowel v. Union Centre Inc., [2009] M.J. No. 215, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, May 27, 2009, C.M. Sinclair J.

Rowel was employed by Union Centre Inc. when he suffered an injury which partially disabled him. He sought accommodation from the Union Centre and alleged that he was denied accommodation and was required to perform functions which he was unable to perform because of his injury. He complained to the Commission which referred the matter to Investigation. The Investigator met with Rowel. Rowel subsequently alleged that the Investigator accused him of being a liar. Prior to the Board of Commissioner’s consideration of the Investigation Report, it was forwarded to Rowel who was given an opportunity to respond to its contents, as was the Union Centre. Rowel did respond in some detail and raised numerous issues with respect to its contents. After considering Rowel’s response, the Commission acted on the recommendation of the Investigator and dismissed Rowel’s complaint. Rowel then requested the Commission reconsider its decision and the Commission confirmed its earlier dismissal. Rowel sought judicial review of that decision.

The Court noted that there is a general requirement on the part of bodies such as the Commission to conduct neutral and thorough investigations, citing the Federal Court decision in Slattery v. Canada (Human Rights Commission), [1994] F.C.J. No. 181. The Court in Slattery also pointed out that if a Commission simply adopts an Investigator’s conclusions without giving reasons, and those conclusions were made in a manner which might be characterized as biased, then a reviewable error had occurred.

In this case, the Court was satisfied that the issues must be resolved against the position of Rowel. The Court found that there was nothing to suggest that any bias that may have been displayed by the Investigator had any impact whatsoever upon the decision of the Commission ultimately not to proceed to send the matter to a Hearing. Based on the record, Rowel had considerable opportunity to raise issues of bias with the Commission, which he failed to do. With respect to the thoroughness of the investigation, the Court reviewed Rowel’s submissions and concluded that neither individually nor collectively did any of the points raised by Rowel show a lack of thoroughness on the part of the Investigator.

The Court was satisfied that the Commission had an important gatekeeping role to play insofar as the handling of complaints is concerned and that it did not act improperly or unreasonably in its handling of Rowel’s case. Therefore, the Application for Judicial Review was dismissed.

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