picAt Pride 2006

December 2005

Human Rights Commission Hearing Will Examine Complaint Based on Perceived Sexual Orientation

An independent human rights board of inquiry will consider the complaint of a Hammonds Plains woman that she was improperly accused of inappropriate behaviour with a female student while working as a physical education teacher at Halifax West High School in September 2000.

Lindsay Jane Willow complained to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission in August 2001, that her colleagues believed she was a lesbian and made the accusation as a result. Ms. Willow alleged that, even though the Halifax Regional Police Service found no basis to proceed with an investigation of the allegation, her career prospects were damaged and she continued to be harassed by colleagues.

Fellow teachers John Orlando and Rick Kitley approached vice-principal Don Clarke after they observed Ms. Willow and a female student leaving a locker room together. Mr. Orlando alleged that he had noticed Ms. Willow in a bathroom inside the empty locker room before she and the female student came out into the corridor. Based on Mr. Orlando's comments, school administration contacted the police who separately interviewed Ms. Willow and the female student before concluding there was nothing further to investigate.

The independent hearing will be chaired by J. Walter Thompson. The board will begin sitting on Monday, Dec. 12, at 9:30 a.m. in Room 303 of the Dalhousie University Student Union Building, 6136 University Ave., Halifax. The hearing will continue on Wednesday, Dec. 14, Friday, Dec. 16 and Monday, Dec. 19.

A complaint is referred to an independent board of inquiry when the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission believes a prima facie case of discrimination is made after an investigation by a human rights officer. The chief judge of the Provincial Court selects a board chair from a roster and the commissioners ratify the nomination. The decision on the complaint is then in the hands of the independent board.

Evidence collected during investigation of a complaint is presented at the hearing by the commission's legal counsel. The complainant and respondent can make submissions and question witnesses. The board chair then decides whether discrimination has occurred.

All parties have a right to appeal decisions of boards of inquiry to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

Readers are asked to attend the hearings, as they can and in support of Ms. Willow.

Lindsay's partner is RuthWilkins?