Public Safety vs. Human Rights

The Alberta Human Rights Tribunal recently ruled in favour of a foreign trained Engineer who claimed he was being discriminated against as he had failed the proficiency exam for Engineers in that province three times.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission ordered the Engineering body to assign the applicant a mentor, conduct a review of his credentials to see if the Engineer can be exempted from certain requirements and to pay him $ 10 000.00 for the discrimination.

Meanwhile in Ontario, there is a “commission” of a different kind currently deliberating: this is the Elliot Lake Inquiry.

The Elliot Lake Inquiry is investigating the collapse of a shopping mall that killed two people and economically devastated a small community. After the Inquiry concluded taking evidence a Licensed Engineer, who had declared the Mall safe shortly before its’ collapse, was charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of negligence causing bodily harm.

This Engineer had had his own encounter with a hearing before he made a final inspection of the Elliot Lake Mall. The Engineering governing body had stripped the Engineer of his credentials and ordered him to pass a technical exam or lose his certification for good. He never wrote the exam. Somehow, he was still hired to inspect the Elliot Lake Mall: it would appear he missed something.

Requirements for many jobs are there to ensure public safety: medicine, engineering and dare I suggest, law, all have requirements to ensure that people who hire those professionals are getting a guaranteed quality of knowledge and service. Watering down that standard is unacceptable: a standard is something everyone has to meet regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation or creed (these are not all the prohibited areas of discrimination, but they are most).

It is not discrimination to require an Engineer to prove s/he is able to do their job at the level expected in Canada: it is public protection.

Inga B. Andriessen JD