North

Panel hears human rights case against N.W.T. union

A member with MS claims Union of Northern Workers will not accomodate her disability.

Member with MS claims union building difficult to access

Human rights complainant Elizabeth Portman said this building in Yellowknife is difficult to access for her. (Shannon Scott photo)

A Northwest Territories human rights adjudication panel has reconvened in Yellowknife to hear a complaint against the Union of Northern Workers.

Member Elizabeth Portman filed the complaint in October 2011.

She claims the union violated her human rights when it held a meeting in its own building.

Portman has multiple sclerosis.

The N.W.T. Human Rights Act forbids discrimination based on disability.

Portman says the building is difficult for her to access because the office is on the second floor.

She requested the meeting be moved to a building she could freely access considering her disability.

The Union of Northern Workers is fighting the accusations.

"The UNW has argued the UNW building is fully barrier free for persons with disabilities.  We do have, for example, a chair lift which would allow people with limited mobility to access our building using our wheelchair lift." Said Todd Parsons, the local’s president.

In her complaint, Portman calls the wheelchair lift "undignified".

She says using a wheelchair when she doesn't need one makes her feel even more disabled.

Portman wants all union meetings, training and events held outside the union offices from now on.

Parsons says the union has gone above and beyond what is necessary, including changing signage, adding door bells and offering to pay for taxis so Portman can make it to meetings.

The panel meets again Tuesday morning.

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