This is a repost of University of Calgary Professor Jennifer Koshan’s recently published wishlist of matters for the new provincial Status of Women Ministry (together with the Ministry of Justice) to address.
A suggestion of key interest to us is that the Alberta Human Rights Act “be amended to protect against discrimination on the basis of social condition or social disadvantage.” Social condition is a term which, while lacking a universally shared and understood meaning, generally refers to a person’s social position or class and, where added to human rights legislation as a prohibited ground, is intended to address the social stigma associated with being poor. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has published a good primer on the issue of adding social condition to human rights legislation, available here.
All of the clients we serve at the ECLC are poor, and a high percentage of them experience discrimination because of their poverty. Being poor usually means more than just lacking economic resources–it means having inadequate social and cultural resources as well, and it often means being denied the ability to enforce one’s basic human and legal rights.
Extending human rights protection (for example, in residential tenancies, employment, or services customarily available to the public) to those of us experiencing discrimination because of our social condition would send a strong message—to everyone—that we are all equally valuable, regardless of our social position, class, English grammar, what we do for a living, or where we sleep at night.
It would be interesting to hear the position of the Alberta Human Rights Commission on this proposed amendment, and to know what the Justice and Status of Women Ministers think about it.