Couchie v Ontario (Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing)  OHRTD 748.
What happens when you treat two instructors differently based on the same negative evaluation?
In 2008, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing contracted the Consulting Matrix Inc. to provide Aboriginal relations training (based on a training session provided for another Ministry) for its staff in Northern Ontario. The theme of the training included “the Aboriginal peoples, culture and history in Ontario, an understanding of treaty rights, claims and assertions and Aboriginal relations; and an introduction to engagement with Aboriginal peoples” (19). The Matrix provided the Ministry with two instructors: an Aboriginal woman (to give an Aboriginal perspective) and a non-Aboriginal male (to give the crown perspective). There was no contractual relationship between the Matrix’s instructors and the Ministry.
After the first training session, the regional director of the northwestern services office of the MMAH (who had moderated a training session with the applicant in 2007) received negative oral feedback from three staff members about both presenters. The director called the consulting firm to voice his concerns about the two instructors and to request the removal of the Aboriginal instructor. Upon the request of Consulting Matrix, the decision was delayed until the parties had the opportunity to assess the written evaluations. The latter assessed the overall training session given by both presenters, and was very poor; only 33.33% of the attendees found the training to be “very good” (whereas the government training standard was 85%). There were negative comments about the attitudes, knowledge and presentation styles of both the Aboriginal and the non-Aboriginal trainers; however there were more negative comments about the Aboriginal trainer. Some of those negative comments about the Aboriginal presenter included assertions that she was “being blitzed” “spacey”, “disconnected” and involved with “drug abuse”. Others commented on her defensiveness/confrontational attitude at the end of the training session when she reacted to an offensive comment made by the other speaker about the duty to engage in meaningful consultation with the Aboriginal community (he spoke of the importance of “covering [one’s] ass” by, at minimum, making a phone call.
The Ministry required Matrix to coach the non-Aboriginal instructor and to replace the Aboriginal instructor. Matrix complied but was unhappy with the Ministry’s decision. It would have chosen to coach both instructors. The Aboriginal instructor was replaced by another Aboriginal instructor, who was very well received by the staff. The non-Aboriginal instructor was coached, but continued to receive poor evaluations for the remaining training sessions.
- “Upon reviewing all of the evidence before me, I find that it is more probable than not that the applicant’s race was a factor at play in the Ministry’s differential response between her and A.B. I make this finding for the following reasons:
The Tribunal ordered the Ministry to pay the applicant $20,000 in damages