By The Canadian Press - Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Auto insurance companies have the right to charge higher premiums for geriatric…
TORONTO – Auto insurance companies have the right to charge higher premiums for geriatric drivers given evidence they pose a higher crash risk, Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal has decided.
The elderly driver who brought the discrimination case says the industry now has licence to charge those over age 80 hundreds of dollars a year extra.
“I’m sorry for them, because they’re going to pay more,” Denis Olorenshaw said Thursday.
“There doesn’t seem to be any fairness involved here.”
By Jaime Weinman, Anne Kingston, Aaron Wherry, and Martin Patriquin - Friday, October 12, 2012 at 10:49 AM - 0 Comments
Oct. 5-11, 2012: The war on Big Bird, Silvio Berlusconi discovers a woman can lie, and a female perspective on the oilsands
Feast your eyes
The Prime Minister didn’t sexually harass you just because he was naked in the library. That’s what the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario seems to be saying with its dismissal of a complaint lodged earlier this year after a very cheeky painting of Stephen Harper appeared in a Kingston public library. Entitled Emperor Haute Couture, the painting by Kingston artist Margaret Sutherland portrays Harper in nude repose on a white chaise longue, a pooch at his feet and one of many anonymous minders behind handing him a large Tim Hortons coffee. The sight was too much for Albertan Curtis Stewart. “This is a complete disrespect to our country, our government and to our Prime Minister,” Stewart wrote in his HRTO complaint last spring, adding that the image was “a complete form of sexual harassment to me, my family and to all Canadians.” The HRTO dismissed the complaint, saying it fell beyond its jurisdiction.
The Bird speaks for all of us
Big Bird is the 99 per cent. After Mitt Romney said he would cut funding to PBS, then added “I love Big Bird,” the yellow Sesame Street star has become an instant meme in the U.S. presidential campaign. A Romney rally was protested by a man in a Big Bird costume carrying a sign that said “crack down on Wall Street, not Sesame Street.” Twitter was flooded with slogans like “I stand with Big Bird” and fake accounts from an out-of-work feathered muppet. Barack Obama’s campaign even released an ad portraying Romney as anti-Big Bird, but it didn’t sit well with the Sesame Street’s producers, who called for Obama to take down the ad because “Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization.”
Another reason to love Toronto
Vito Rizzuto, a former Montreal crime boss known as the “Teflon Don,” flew home to Canada last week. Rizzuto was released last Friday from a U.S. prison, where he was serving a sentence in connection with a 1981 killing, and seasoned Mob-watchers have been buzzing about what his next move will be upon returning to Canada. With his power base decimated in Montreal and his home up for sale, speculation is afoot that he may stay in Ontario: “Toronto is where he can find strength and calm,” a Quebec police officer told the Toronto Star. Toronto: where gangsters can make a fresh start.
Who’s the sexist-est of them all?
The Speaker in Australia’s House of Representatives eventually resigned after the emergence of sexist and profane text messages—the c-word was involved. But first, the House was witness to a remarkable display from PM Julia Gillard. After Tony Abbott, the opposition leader, declared that Gillard had failed by selecting Peter Slipper as Speaker, the ﬁrst female prime minister in Australian history stood in the House and launched a blistering 15-minute attack on Abbott, accusing him and his side of sexism and misogyny. She recounted how he had, among other things, suggested she make “an honest woman of herself” (Gillard is unmarried). If Abbott “wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia,” she said, “he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives—he needs a mirror.” Too bad for Abbott: just last week, his wife, Margie, tried to burnish her husband’s image in a series of media interviews. “Tony Abbott gets women,” she ventured, “and … the women in Tony Abbott’s life certainly get him.”
Tell us more
Who wouldn’t want life advice from a 26-year-old able to net $3.7 million for her first book? That’s what Random House execs were betting as they won a bidding war for Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned. It’s the latest triumph for the indie “It Girl,” known for strip-mining her life in her film Tiny Furniture, her HBO series Girls and her New Yorker essays. The publisher expressed high hopes for the self-help tome inspired by Helen Gurley Brown’s 1962 classic Sex and the Single Girl: in a statement, it placed Dunham in the tradition of Gurley Brown, David Sedaris and Nora Ephron and promised “frank and funny advice on everything from sex to eating to travelling to work.”
She also said he was the wisest, most handsome man she’d met
More cringe-worthy news regarding Silvio Berlusconi, currently on trial on charges that he hired an underage prostitute for one of his allegedly sex-drenched “bunga bunga” parties. The prosecution introduced evidence suggesting that Berlusconi thought Karima El Mahroug—known as Ruby the Heart Stealer—was the granddaughter of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. That Mahroug, who was 17 when she met Berlusconi, was a prostitute apparently didn’t deter Berlusconi’s conviction in her story. The former PM even asked Mubarak about the young woman during the latter’s visit to Rome; predictably, Mubarak didn’t have a clue what Berlusconi was talking about. “She told me a load of balls,” a miffed Burlusconi told an adviser, after figuring out Ruby’s subterfuge. The 76-year-old lothario faces a maximum of three years in jail.
Women’s week in Fort McMurray
The woman who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for banning land mines trod onto more explosive territory this week: she kicked off her one-week tour of the proposed Northern Gateway route in Fort McMurray, Alta., U.S. activist Jody Williams is leading an all-female delegation that includes singer Sarah Harmer and climate scientist Marianne Douglas to solicit women’s opinions about pipeline development. In a video released by the tour’s sponsor, Ottawa-based Nobel Women’s Initiative, Williams explains: “In too many situations of crisis around the world, the women and their children are the ones who suffer the most when their environment is destroyed.” But she’ll get some other points of view along the way: one of her meetings was with Melissa Blake, the pro-development mayor of Wood Buffalo, of which Fort McMurray is part.
He’s here, he’s queer—and careful, he can throw a punch
The world of professional sports is not thought of as very gay-friendly, but Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz may change that. The 31-year-old featherweight, ranked fourth in his weight class, announced that he is “a proud gay man,” adding that he went public “knowing that it would have pros and cons, highs and lows in this sport that is so macho.” Cruz is the first pro boxer to come out as during his career, and it puts the sport ahead of a number of other pro sports, such as baseball and football, that have no openly gay athletes.
Good thing he’s not Canadian
Mark Morris started as a dancer in Seattle and is now one of America’s most famous ballet choreographers. But back in his hometown for a show with frequent collaborator Mikhail Baryshnikov, Morris didn’t seem too nostalgic about the place where he grew up, or too sorry to be leaving for New York City. He told the local paper The Stranger that Seattle is a “small pond” where “people resent excellence,” and he scoffed at the city’s overblown pride in its provincial achievements. “Everyone knows that people in Seattle are very proud of Seattle—and that’s not a compliment.”
Some students are more equal
A lawsuit launched by a white high school student against the University of Texas at Austin claiming racial discrimination could upend affirmative-action policies at U.S. universities when it’s heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this week. Abigail Fisher sued in 2008 after she was denied admission, claiming that her academic credentials exceeded those of the admitted minority candidates. Fisher, who since graduated from Louisiana State University, told the New York Times: “I’m hoping that they’ll completely take race out of the issue in terms of admissions and that everyone will be able to get into any school that they want . . . solely based on their merit.” And their ability to afford the sky-high tuition.
Vile—it’s right there in the name
While continuing to maintain his innocence, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison this week after being convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse. In an audio statement released to a Penn State radio station, Sandusky said, “In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts,” and blamed a “well-orchestrated effort of the media, investigators, the system, Penn State, psychologists, civil attorneys and other accusers” for his conviction. Meanwhile, in England, Scotland Yard is investigating the possibility that Sir Jimmy Savile, a BBC presenter and DJ (Top of the Pops), may have abused as many as 25 young girls over 50 years. Eight criminal allegations have been filed in regards to girls aged 13 to 16. Savile died last year, so he cannot serve time, but British PM David Cameron raised the possibility this week of stripping him of his knighthood.
Olympic rowers salute their lakeside leader
It was part tribute, part protest as an Olympic armada massed at Elk Lake near Victoria for a last row with their coach Mike Spracklen, 75. His uncompromising methods produced results, but Rowing Canada ended his contract, angering those who thrived under his leadership. After the outing, Silken Laumann said if rowers had brought their medals, the dock would have sunk.
By Charlie Gillis - Friday, January 30, 2009 at 4:41 PM - 49 Comments
If an employee wants to wear a turban, and knows the risks, why not let him make the call?
Here’s a brave prediction: Deepinder Loomba will win his case at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The Sikh security guard evidently hit a wall of refusal (and ridicule) when he advised the folks at a Home Depot construction site in Milton, Ont., that he couldn’t trade his turban for a hard hat. If there’s one thing the courts have been clear on in this country, it’s that an employer has to try—that’s what the loaded phrase “reasonable accommodation” means. The bosses must make a sincere attempt to reconcile religious requirements with the other laws they’re required to follow.
Still, the 50-year-old has plunged us back into the bramble patch of safety versus religious freedom. And his case may well force us to consider our responsibility to each other in new ways. What onus, it implicitly asks, do we have to stop someone from exposing himself to risk? If, as courts seem increasingly disposed to rule, religious freedom outweighs the potential costs to society, what’s an employer to say? The answer in many such cases in the future may be: “Suit yourself.”
To be clear, we’re not there yet. “Across the entire country, hard hats are required not only for safety but insurance reasons,” notes Bill Ferreira, who speaks for the Canadian Construction Association. “In this case, safety trumps religious freedom.” Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1985 that a Sikh railway worker named Karnail Singh Bhinder was required to wear a hard hat on the job, apparently putting the matter to rest.
Then, as more such cases arose, a funny thing happened. The legal community took a harder look at the real implications of exempting people from helmet or hard-hat laws. The revision was prompted by a dissent to Bhinder written by then-Chief Justice Brian Dickson. In it, he noted that there was negligible risk to Karnail Bhinder, no cost to the employer and, most important, no risk to anyone else. “The dissent is considered in legal circles to be more persuasive,” says Bruce Ryder, a professor at Osgoode Hall law school who has studied human rights and religious freedom. “He concluded that it was an easy case for reasonable accommodation,” because there was no undue hardship on the employer or Bhinder’s co-workers.
By 1990, the high court had turned 180 degrees, concluding that the reasoning in Bhinder was “no longer representative of the law,” (though they stopped short of actually reversing Bhinder’s hard-hat requirement). The door was officially opened. Challenges to motorcycle helmet laws would follow—B.C. and Manitoba created exemptions for religious headwear, while an Ontario judge recently upheld a ticket to a Sikh man caught riding helmetless; his case is now under appeal. Workers at a B.C. sawmill, meanwhile, have challenged hard-hat requirements in that province, and have a good chance of having the occupational safety laws in that province rewritten.
This new wave of thinking hangs on an intriguing—and more libertarian—take on religious freedom as it pertains to safety. “Not wearing a hard hat doesn’t jeopardize anyone else’s safety, ” says Ryder. “If risk to others [in the workplace] is very low, the right answer may be to say this is a matter of individual choice.” To understand how this is possible, it’s important to remember that human rights decisions supersede other laws. That means a Sikh who wins an exemption from hard-hat rules will not be able to sue due to the absence of his hard hat. His decision should not, therefore, dramatically inflate employers’ insurance premiums, and the standard concern about these exemptions creating “undue hardship” on employers will be moot.
The costs to the rest of society are another matter. As the provincial court judge hearing the Ontario motorcycle helmet case noted, the cost of treating devastating brain injuries is enormous. So too is the burden on family members who lose a loved one to head injury. The state, therefore, has a legitimate interest in keeping people safe. Moreover, how does one assess the potential risks and expenses on a site-by-site, worker-by-worker basis? What are the risks on, say, a construction site, where a worker may split his time between an office trailer and a yard of swinging I-beams? Making the calculation itself could become a hardship.
By comparison, Loomba’s case seems fairly clear-cut. He had what amounted to a desk job outside the entrance to the main construction zone, watching other employees walk by to pick up their hard hats. How often he ventured into an area where nail guns were sounding is in dispute. The real question, though, is whether we should bother to dispute it. If an employee wants to wear a turban, and is made aware of the risks, why not let him make the call?