Once again I am filled with gratitude, a sense of relief, and vindication. I have been talking and telling my story for years, and finally it is starting to be heard.
As I posted several months ago, I have had a major success in the judicial review of my case. In addition and in light of the success, my lawyer petitioned the court to request financial costs to cover some of the incurred fees that resulted from the long process.
In a rather unusual move, the decision of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia awarded an amount greater than we anticipated, and in so doing, made some incredible statements.
For example, in one part, the Decision reads:
“Those individuals who file a complaint with the Commission are entitled to expect that their matters will be conscientiously reviewed and investigated in accordance with the rules of procedural fairness and the Commission’s own policies. When the Commission fails to exercise due diligence in the investigation process the consequences for a complaint can be profound.” (pg 10)
“In Ms. Tessier’s case, the Commission’s conduct left her in a difficult position. She could abandon her complaint entirely, or assume the stress and expense associated with filing an application for judicial review. While the application was successful, her complaint against HRMFES is no closer to being resolved. Ms Tessier must now participate in a new investigation, seven years after her complaint was initially filed, and nine years after some of the events described in the complaint. It is reasonable to expect that the cogency of the evidence will be compromised by the passage of time. Memories fade and witnesses may now be unavailable.” (10)
The decision goes so far as to require a splitting of costs between the Commission and the HRMFES (fire department). “I am satisfied that the circumstances of the case are exceptional and bring it outside the general rule of immunity for cost on part of the administrative decision-makers. In my view, it would be contrary to the public interest for the Commission to avoid liability for costs in situations where it has mishandled a complaint to the degree seen in this case.” (11)
This Decision acknowledges the claims that I made repeatedly: my case was complex and needed careful attention but was very poorly organized.,It also acknowledged the extensive efforts to have my case heard (page 15). Clearly, as this Decision officially reiterates, they did not take my case seriously and did not give it the degree of importance that it warranted.
Furthermore, this decision officially marks the major gaps in the process, the ones that I’ve been trying to point to for years! The first investigation report was made 4 years after I filed my complaint, but didn’t include any new details or information (page 15). In other words, little or no investigation was even done.
Just to set the record straight, however, this Decision in no way comes anywhere close to reimbursing me or some of the lawyers I had working on the case throughout the years. This is an award of 10,000, but in reality, I have invested thousands of more dollars, not to mention time, energy, and the extreme emotional stress this whole ordeal has caused. The initial mistreatment in my workplace was bad enough, but this process has multiplied that injustice exponentially. But what is significant is that the things I’ve been trying to say for so long are now being heard and addressed. Officially. My only hope is that the next person to come along with a case similar to mine will not need to go through as much.
Now, if we could only turn our attention to the culture in general, the one that blames the victims, rewards masculinity that dominates those around them, and repeats the tropes of how women and men really are and how they should behave and where they should or should not work….then we will really be getting somewhere. This decision is a good first step.
Currently, my lawyer and I are in communication with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and working on how to proceed with the new investigation.
The decision can be found here: http://decisions.courts.ns.ca/nsc/nssc/en/item/71707/index.do?r=AAAAAQAHVGVzc2llcgAAAAAB