Human Rights Commission takes another look
Former Spaniard’s Bay councillor Brenda Seymour won a Supreme Court challenge concerning her complaint to the provincial Human Rights Commission.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission has been ordered to take another look at a former Spaniard’s Bay town councillor’s complaint.
Brenda Seymour, a local firefighter who most recently served on council prior to the 2017 general election, took the municipality and the commission to court over the latter’s decision in November of last year to dismiss her complaint, which had been filed in May of 2017. The commission executive director indicated the complaint was outside the time limit prescribed under the provincial Human Rights Act.
Seymour had previously made public allegations of harassment stemming from her involvement with the local volunteer fire department. The town eventually commissioned a report prepared by a retired police officer who found the behaviour of the firefighters did not constitute bullying, harassment or intimidation. Seymour elected not to participate in the report as she questioned its impartiality.
In her complaint to the Human Rights Commission, Seymour outlined her experiences with the department while also recounting circumstances resulting from the release of the report commissioned by the town she found to be unsettling. In October of that year, she provided further correspondence to the commission about a social media post the local fire chief made after her election defeat that Seymour felt reveled in her loss and hinted at a desire on the chief’s part to have her leave the department.
Last November, the commission informed Seymour it was dismissing her case on grounds the complaint fell outside the 12-month time limitation.
Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Deborah Paquette ultimately disagreed. In a written decision dated Oct. 24, she said the executive director for the commission made an unreasonable decision given she neglected to inquire about Seymour post-election complaint from the fall of 2017.
Paquette went on to write, “I am persuaded that these words used by the Fire Chief could connote the possibility of actions which may or may not constitute gender harassment when considered in the context of the other allegations set out in the Complaint Form, yet this was never followed up with him or others.”
Through the Supreme Court case, Seymour was also looking for the town to provide monetary compensation, issue a public apology and withdraw the report prepared by the retired officer from publication. Justice Paquette denied those requests, noting such relief was “not available in an application for judicial review.”
Former Spaniard’s Bay councillor Brenda Seymour has won a Supreme Court challenge against the municipality and the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission.