Ageism to become discrimination in Alberta for first time

Age will soon be included as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act.

'We can now join the rest of Canada'

'We can now join the rest of Canada,' says lawyer Allan Garber. (CBC)

Age will soon be included as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act.

An application to include age as a discriminating factor was granted at a hearing in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench Friday after it was unopposed by the province.

"We can now join the rest of Canada," said lawyer Allan Garber as he left the court with seniors' advocate Ruth Adria.

While the preamble to the act proclaims all people are "equal in dignity, rights and responsibilities with regard to" many qualities including age, age is not included as a prohibited ground of discrimination in respect to goods and services or tenancies, Adria's application said.

An excerpt from the Alberta Human Rights Act showing that age is not included in the grounds for discrimination under section four of the act. (CBC)

Garber said he was surprised the Alberta government did not oppose the application but said he had no doubt the application would be granted.

Age as grounds for discrimination has been an issue in Alberta ever since the Alberta Human Rights Commission was formed in 1972, Garber said.

In 1984, the Human Rights Review Panel recommended age be included in the act but the province chose not to do so, he said.

In 2008, Adria wrote to the government asking age be included, but again the province refused, he said.

'Their rights are violated'

"Over half a million Alberta citizens, their rights are violated under the Charter," said Adria, chair of the Elder Advocates of Alberta Society. "They do not have equal benefit of the law or protection of the law."

Adria said she will use the change to challenge "unfair or invalid" driving tests and other issues facing seniors.

In an email, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley thanked Adria for raising the issue.
Seniors' advocate Ruth Adria intends to use the Alberta Human Rights Act to fight for seniors rights once age is added as a prohibited ground for discrimination. (CBC)

"We look forward to taking steps to expand the areas in which Albertans are protected from age discrimination," she said.

While the application was granted, Justice Paul Belzil gave the province one year to work out certain exemptions before the change becomes law.

Human rights acts in other provinces include necessary exemptions for such things as life insurance, where older people can be charged more, and senior residences which are permitted to exclude people based on age.

Garber said he and Adria will be watching closely to ensure the exemptions are "for the benefit of seniors and not to their detriment."