The argument is not about human rights.

When Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty argue about Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal system, they are hardly arguing about human rights.  While it is confusing trying to follow Tim Hudak’s various flip-flops on the issue, they appear to be arguing over who is best at looking after the province’s lawyers.

In his earlier and more simplistic stance to get rid of the Human Rights Tribunal, Hudak was taking the Libertarian approach to please the extremists on the far right of his party.  In suggesting, at the time, that the courts should handle human rights cases, he was offering fatter, longer running and profitable cases for lawyers.  Even with his ill-defined offer to fix the existing ‘kangaroo court’ tribunals, it sounds as though he might be suggesting they be a more restrictive, legalized process.

There is no question that McGuinty’s approach is also legal aid for lawyers.  As a lawyer, himself, he understands that with all the lawyers in Ontario, they need help to make a living.  McGuinty sees nothing wrong with hiring a law professor to ensure that the human rights system is protecting people in Ontario.  What is wrong is that the system is already too much of a legal system.  What it really needs to be is a fair system.  There is a difference between the law and fairness.  People mistakenly refer to the law as justice.  They are two different things.

If someone is seeking compensation for their wounded feelings for a real or supposed discriminatory act, they probably should have a lawyer represent them.

But the province needs to ensure that people can have easy access to Human Rights Tribunals without being forced to hire a lawyer.  They need to shut down these quasi-judicial hearing and assess a complaint for what it is.  Tribunals held over a telephone connection are intimidating and unfair.  Hearings chaired by lawyers, playing at being a judge, are neither satisfactory nor necessarily trustworthy.   There also needs to be an easy appeal process for people who feel they have been denied fairness.

The problem is that the law fails to keep up to what society recognizes as fair.  For example, there is still rampant discrimination in Ontario based on age.  We can hardly forgive this discrimination just because the law has not caught up.

We have no choice but to choose the McGuinty approach over Hudak’s in these circumstances.  It is just too bad that McGuinty thinks like a lawyer.


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