The complainant is a non-Aboriginal man who had enrolled in, but had not completed, a psychology program at Laurentian University. He had worked at the Ininew Friendship Centre (a non-governmental organization providing services to Aboriginal persons of all ages) from 1997 to 2006 as an on-call relief worker (1997-2003) and then as a part time Special Needs Counselor (2003-2006).
In 2005, an Aboriginal woman was hired as Director of the Centre in favour of the applicant. He resigned in 2006 “expressing concerns about delivering the Aboriginal component of his program within the allotted 30 hours a week”. In 2006 applied for two positions (Prime Worker and then Special Needs Counselor) the first of which was granted to an experienced Aboriginal candidate who spoke Cree fluently and the second of which was a qualified Aboriginal candidate who spoke Cree a little. The complainant filed two complaints with the Tribunal (2005 and 2006) which is treated them as a single complaint. He submitted medical evidence that the denial of the jobs caused him emotional pain and hurt feelings.
Facts about the respondent:
1) Advertisement Policy: The Ininew Friendship centre posts its positions internally for three days before posting in the local newspaper. It explains that although this limits the applicant pool, it also increases the chances that the applicant will in fact take the job.
2) The ability to speak Cree was listed in the first posting (Prime Worker) as an “asset” and in the second (Special Needs Counselor) as “preferred”
3) The mandate of the Center is to serve the Aboriginal community
4) The Center’s policy manual “provides that every effort will be made to recruit Aboriginal candidates for all positions that become available in order to fulfill its commitment to providing positive role models to the community and to the training and development of Aboriginal people. The respondent submits that this preference to hire Aboriginal Workers is intended to assist Aboriginal persona achieve equal opportunity.”
Did the Ininew Friendship Centre discriminate against the applicant when it failed to hire him?
1) The other candidates were more educated, qualified and/or experienced than the candidate (18)
2) The other candidates spoke Cree and “within a Cree-speaking friendship center such as Ininew, the ability to be able to communicate with the people it serves, particularly the elders who have limited or no fluency in English or French, is necessary to maintain its mandate and promote Aboriginal culture, language and traditions”(16)
3) The respondent argued that the Center and its programs (especially those associated with the posted positions) qualified as “special programs” targeted at alleviating group disadvantage. As such its hiring preferences are not considered to be discriminatory.