Province moves to cap damage awards by Manitoba Human Rights Commission at $25K

The Manitoba government has introduced legislation that would put a cap on what the province's human rights commission can award for damages.

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen says cap follows similar decisions at federal level and in Saskatchewan

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen says a recommended cap on awards for damage follows similar decisions in other jurisdictions. (Ian Froese/CBC)

The Manitoba government has introduced legislation that would cap the amount of money the province's human rights commission can award.

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said the proposed change would speed up the process to get decisions.

"Right now, we have a 3 1/2 to four year wait for hearings," he said Tuesday. "So when someone submits a claim it takes up to four years to get it done. This legislation allows to expedite the process."

The bill calls for a $25,000 limit on damages for injury to dignity, feelings or self-respect stemming from a human rights complaint. Currently, there is no limit.

It would also allow the commission's executive director to dismiss complaints that are being addressed in another forum, introduce time limits and give authority to adjudicators to mediate complaints.

Cullen said the award limit was recommended after an independent review and follows similar decisions federally and in Saskatchewan. He did not speak to whether it was related to an ongoing case.

Manitoba Justice filed an application to the court last month to review the commission's decision to award $75,000 to a former employee. The corrections officer said in his complaint that he was continually harassed during his employment at the Manitoba Youth Centre because he is gay.

Opposition Leader Wab Kinew said it "looks like the person writing the rules is trying to get out of having to pay the cheque." He added the move could discourage people from bringing forward important cases.

"I think it should be rightly considered on a case by case basis," Kinew said. "The human rights adjudicators should have the freedom to say this was a really severe transgression and the person should be entitled to large damages."

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said there is no reason to implement a cap.

"It seems to me that the Pallister government just wants to make it easier and cheaper for people to violate human rights in Manitoba and I don't think that's appropriate."

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