Human Rights Issues
guideline was prepared by a sub-committee of the Practice Standards
Committee whose mandate is "to enhance the quality and
value of professional services to the public". Practicing
members representing clients, permit holding companies and
consultants participated directly in developing the contents
of the guideline. It was approved for publication by APEGGA
Council in February, 1997.
guideline was prepared by members of APEGGAs Practice Standards
Committee. It sets forth APEGGAs human rights policy and
encourages APEGGA members to be proactive towards protection
of human rights in the work place.
guideline is an interpretive document that amplifies the Engineering,
Geological and Geophysical Professions Act and the Code of Ethics.
It is not a legal document and is not intended to supersede or
replace federal or provincial human rights legislation. It presents
a standard of professional conduct that all members are expected
Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act, Regulations
and By-laws govern the behaviour of APEGGAs professional
members, licensees, permit holders, certificate holders and members-in-training.
Throughout this guideline, the term "member" is used
to denote all categories of membership.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY
4.2 Harassment 4-2
ISSUES IN THE PROFESSIONS
Issues for Women 5-1
5.2 Issues for Aboriginal People 5-2
5.3 Issues for People with Disabilities 5-2
5.4 Issues for Newcomers 5-3
GEOLOGICAL AND GEOPHYSICAL PROFESSIONS ACT
guideline clarifies APEGGAs expectations of its
members with respect to human rights issues in professional
dynamics involved in a professionals relationships
with other professionals, clients, employees and other
associates can include power, authority, control and
trust. These integral characteristics require a heightened
awareness and understanding of the issues associated
with such relationships. As professionals, APEGGA members
are expected to behave in a manner that exemplifies and
supports fair and unbiased treatment of others.
recognizes the importance of fostering a workplace environment
that welcomes all of the increasingly diverse members
of our society and enables them to contribute to their
full potential. APEGGA members are encouraged to be proactive
in improving the workplace environment for all employees,
clients, and associates and in addressing issues such
as discrimination and harassment.
definitions are collected in Appendix A. Legislation
that is applicable to APEGGA members in these matters
is summarized in Appendices B and C. Members should note
that, in some circumstances, employers, unions and associations
can be held responsible for the behaviour of their employees
HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY
affirms the fundamental principle that all persons have
the intrinsic human right to be treated fairly and with
dignity. As professionals, APEGGA members are expected
to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes and encourages
recognition of this right.
discrimination, harassment or intimidation that violates
the human rights of others is improper and offensive. Any
such action perpetrated or condoned by an APEGGA member
is unacceptable and constitutes unprofessional conduct.
that APEGGA members will respect the human rights of others
and take action to protect those rights has been clearly
articulated in the foregoing policy statement. In all aspects
of their professional practice APEGGA members should:
proactive in understanding human rights issues,
familiar with applicable provincial and federal human
action to protect human rights, and
vigilant against discrimination and harassment.
who are responsible for establishing organizational policies,
or who can influence those policies, should take action
a workplace that fosters mutual respect and good interpersonal
human rights policies in their organizations,
policies to prohibit discrimination and harassment,
effective procedures to deal with incidents, and
effective education programs for all employees.
rights commission offices can be contacted for assistance
with creating and implementing effective human rights
policies. APEGGA professionals are encouraged to take
advantage of this source of information.
first step in preparing effective human rights policies
is developing understanding and awareness of the key
issues. A brief discussion of discrimination and harassment
occurs in the workplace when people are treated differently
because of some particular attribute such as race, gender,
age, disability, culture or other attribute including
those listed in human rights codes.
the workplace discrimination may occur in many forms,
some blatant, others subtle. Human rights commissions
define three types of discrimination that may invade
the workplace. These are discussed below. Examples that
help clarify the various types of discrimination are
included in Appendix D.
this instance discrimination occurs, with intent, because
a person possesses some attribute against which there
is prejudice. Weak excuses may be invented to justify
the discrimination, but under scrutiny these "rationalizations" evaporate.
Adverse Effect Discrimination
type of discrimination occurs when policies, rules,
conditions or union agreements are applied to all employees.
Usually there is no intent to discriminate against
anyone; however, as every employee is expected to comply
regardless of individual circumstances, discrimination
form of discrimination is based on principles or practices
that are inherent in a system. The system may be a
business, a profession, or any other organized way
of behaving in society. The discrimination is not casual
or random; it is based on established and often widely
accepted behavioural norms. These established norms
may become obstacles that keep people from participating
fully in the system or group and limit their ability
to contribute. In business, practices such as recruitment,
hiring, and promotion policies are so entrenched and
accepted as part of the norm that the employer may
not realize the practices tend to block, limit, or
prevent the economic wellbeing or career advancement
of a certain group of people within the business system.
is a particular type of discrimination. It occurs when
a person is subjected to any unwanted behaviour that
offends, demeans or humiliates. It can take many forms,
such as sexually suggestive comments or gestures and/or
unwanted physical contact, including physical or sexual
assault. Harassment also can include verbal abuse and
intimidation as well as the displaying of racist, sexist
or other offensive material. Harassment can consist of
a single serious incident, but more often involves a
series of unwanted incidents over a period of time.
the workplace, harassment creates a hostile or poisoned
work environment. It interferes with the quality of work
and can affect a victim's personal life. Many victims
live with the threat of being forced out of a job, fired,
denied promotions or other work-related benefits. Even
jokes that cause awkwardness or embarrassment can undermine
a person's self-esteem and can lead to a wide range of
stress-related illnesses. Victims often feel intimidated,
humiliated and degraded. Harassment is not harmless,
funny or trivial.
is the members' responsibility to be aware of how their
behaviour affects others. Behaviour that is unwelcome
and unwanted or makes others feel uncomfortable may result
in harassment allegations.
addition, employers, unions and associations may be held
responsible for the behaviour of their members, particularly
if they have not taken adequate steps to provide a discrimination-free
workplace. The Supreme Court of Canada has found that
the employer may be responsible for the actions of its
employees. Lack of awareness may not eliminate this potential
liability. Employers are responsible for providing a
harassment-free work environment for all employees, clients
and other associates. An effective policy regarding harassment
can significantly reduce an employers or associations
liability, should a complaint ever be made or filed.
Prompt and appropriate response to such a complaint can
further reduce liability.
people entering the workplace today come from many different
demographic groups. This variety brings with it opportunity
for our businesses and professions. The diverse points
of view now available can bring added creativity and
innovation, improve decision-making and create competitive
professionals, we will find that societys increasing
diversity will influence our professions, our workplaces
and our relationships with associates. We must seek to
understand the viewpoints of others and develop joint
ways of dealing with issues. We must develop new behavioural
norms that welcome diverse groups in the workplace in
order to allow all individuals to contribute to the best
of their abilities within our organizations.
members are encouraged to work to improve the workplace
environment and eliminate barriers to acceptance and
advancement while maintaining fair and just treatment
for all. Many APEGGA members and their organizations
have already taken significant action and made substantial
improvements. Eliminating these barriers and improving
the workplace environment is, however, an area where
continuous improvement is in order and where the professions
have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership.
following sections illustrate the issues facing several
of the diverse groups in our society.
ISSUES FOR WOMEN
are entering the workforce in increasing numbers and
the character of the workplace is changing as a result.
Many organizations are taking steps to accommodate women,
remove barriers, and enable them to contribute to their
are under-represented in the engineering, geological
and geophysical professions, especially at the senior
levels. In the past, societal expectations and stereotypes
have kept many women from even attempting to enter the
professions. In addition, there have been some barriers
to the acceptance and advancement of women within our
own professional workplaces. Among these are:
discrimination: Some women have been denied the opportunity
to practice, even though fully qualified. The rationalizations
given for such treatment have ranged from a presumed
inability to be effective in field work to concern
over their ability to effectively balance home and
discrimination: Our professions have been dominated
by men, and so the role models and understood norms
for successful professionals have been largely masculine.
Many women entering the profession have had to adapt
to these masculine standards to be successful.
Some women have been harassed, both deliberately and
inadvertently, on the basis of gender differences.
like these contribute to womens lack of progression
and/or early departure from the workforce. In addition,
they harm the reputation and credibility of the professions.
ISSUES FOR ABORIGINAL PEOPLE
culture and history of aboriginal people in Canada are
distinct. Existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the
aboriginal peoples in Canada are recognized and affirmed
in the Constitution Act, 1982.
working with aboriginal people, it is important to appreciate
that different processes and ways of conducting business
may apply and that customs may vary from community to
community. Respect is an integral part of aboriginal
culture, and developing mutual respect and understanding
takes time. Listening with patience and honouring community
elders are also important cultural norms.
ISSUES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
with disabilities have faced significant barriers to
employment and fair treatment. These barriers can be
attitudinal or physical.
barriers exist because of the assumptions made about
what people with disabilities can and cannot do. Many
are uncomfortable with those who have some form of disability
and are unsure how to behave around them.
physical and attitudinal barriers often can be removed
or eased by some kind of accommodation or education.
There are agencies and associations that can provide
more information on overcoming the range of barriers
which may exist in the workplace.
ISSUES FOR NEWCOMERS
to our country arrive with a wide variety of expectations,
abilities and needs. Many of them come from a culture
which has significantly different behavioural norms from
those in Canada. In addition, their ability in the use
of English may be quite limited. While these factors
may make it more difficult to communicate, or to develop
understanding, it is important that these people be treated
fairly and with dignity. Where appropriate, APEGGA members
should take steps to facilitate their participation in
our workplaces and to ensure that their human rights
are not violated.
2 outlines APEGGA policy with respect to human rights.
Individuals who believe that they have been treated in
a manner that is in violation of this policy may file
a complaint with APEGGA.
you are harassed or discriminated against, do not ignore
it. The following steps are recommended for dealing with
discrimination and harassment:
Make it clear to the person that his or her actions
are not welcome.
Document your concerns. Keep a written record of incidents
including dates, time, place and witnesses.
If you feel you have been discriminated against or
harassed at work, notify the person identified in your
firms discrimination and harassment policy. In
the absence of a policy, you should talk to that persons
supervisor or another senior person in the company.
If your complaints to the individual and/or the employer
do not yield satisfactory results, you may wish to
file a complaint with the appropriate human rights
If you feel you have been discriminated against or
harassed by a member of APEGGA, you may file a complaint
with APEGGA at any time.
will investigate a complaint after:
person or firm against whom the complaint is being
made has been informed.
documentation is submitted with the complaint to substantiate
investigates conduct which fits within the definition
of unprofessional conduct or unskilled practices contemplated
in Section 43 of the Act.
will be addressed by the Investigative Committee of the
Association upon receipt of adequate documentation. All
complaints will be investigated whether or not they have
already been examined by an employers internal
complaint review process or by a human rights commission.
Complainants should be aware that the results of a human
rights commissions investigations are not matters
of public record. Similarly, the results of internal
company or agency investigation are not likely to be
available. If the Investigative Committee recommends
a formal hearing by the Discipline Committee of the Association,
the Discipline Committee has the right to call witnesses
and require production of documents relative to all matters
related to the complaint. Members should be aware that
discipline hearings may be open to the public.
should also be aware that frivolous or malicious complaints
are themselves considered forms of harassment.
Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions
Act, Regulations and By-laws govern the behaviour of
APEGGAs professional members, licensees, permit
holders, certificate holders and members-in-training.
Throughout this guideline, the term "member" is
used to denote all categories of membership.
means treating people differently because of some particular
attribute such as race, gender or religion. A simple
test for discrimination asks, "Would an individual
be treated in this manner if he or she werent
...(eg: aboriginal, female).
rights acts prohibit discrimination on specific
grounds. (See Appendix C)
is a particular type of discrimination. It occurs when
a person is subjected to any unwanted behaviour that
offends, demeans or humiliates.
opinion formed without taking time and care to judge
fairly, often based on incomplete and stereotyped information.
legal duty requiring that, in some cases, policies,
rules, conditions or agreements that impact on work
must be altered when a person requires accommodation
in order to obtain work or maintain employment.
Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that an employer
must take "reasonable steps" in making
accommodations so that people do not suffer discrimination.
Such a ruling empowers human rights commissions
to impose the legal duty of reasonable accommodation
in the work place.
sexual advances, unwanted requests for sexual favours
and other unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a
sexual nature that offends, demeans or humiliates an
individual on the basis of sex. This is particularly
offensive when submission to such conduct is made either
explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an
individuals employment or when submission to
or rejection of such conduct by an individual affects
the individuals employment.
of the objects, people, circumstance and atmosphere
(mental, moral or physical) surrounding a person in
the performance of the job.
GEOPHYSICAL PROFESSIONS ACT
the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions
Act, unprofessional conduct is any conduct, whether an
act or omission, on the part of a professional member,
licensee, permit holder, certificate holder or member-in-training,
detrimental to the best interests of the public,
the Code of Ethics, or
or tends to harm the standing of the profession generally.
10 of the Code of Ethics requires professionals to conduct
themselves toward other professionals, and toward employees
and others, with fairness and good faith.
conduct may be cause for disciplinary action. After appropriate
investigation, the APEGGAs Discipline Committee
may take action including issuing a reprimand, requiring
investigated person to take counselling or and/or suspension
or revocation of registration.
Governments throughout Canada have enacted legislation
that seeks to eliminate discrimination, particularly
within the workplace. In Alberta,
all employers (including corporations, unions, professional organisations
and the Crown) are governed either by Albertas or Canadas
human rights act. Employers, unions and associations may be held
liable for the actions of their employees and/or members.
Canadian and Albertan human rights acts are distinct
pieces of legislation, each independent of the other
with neither taking precedence over the other. Each act
has its own area of jurisprudence. Employers whose businesses
are registered in provinces across Canada (eg: airlines,
banks, some pipelines, etc.) to serve a national interest
are under the jurisdiction of Canadas act. Those
employers with businesses in Alberta are subject to Albertas
act. Each of the human rights acts is administered by
a human rights commission that has authority to act in
its own area of jurisprudence.Within their own jurisdictions
both human rights acts are primacy legislations.
This means that the enacted human rights acts supersede
all other laws of that jurisdiction, unless expressly
declared by an act of Legislation/Parliament.
acts are similar, but not identical, and both title and
contents change from time to time as each jurisdiction
reviews its legislation. Members of APEGGA should determine
which statute is applicable to them and familiarize themselves
with the content. As of September 1996, the listed prohibited
grounds of discrimination with respect to employment
Grounds Alberta Federal
(including pregnancy or childbirth)
or Mental Disability
or Place of Origin
or Ethnic Origin (including linguistic background)
on Alchohol or Drug
information contact the respective human rights commission.
EXAMPLES - DISCRIMINATION
Calgary shop required a welder. The union sent a qualified
woman welder to the business but the employer didnt
want a woman and refused her access. The union insisted
she be given the job, in that she met the qualifications
and was "next in line" for employment. The
employer then claimed he didnt have suitable toilet
facilities and washrooms. The Human Rights Commission
found that he was discriminating against the welder because
she was female, and ordered him to put a lock on the
toilet door to reasonably accommodate the woman. The
woman was hired after the Commission was called in.
employee at a company is expected to work Monday through
Friday. One employee, because of his religious beliefs
cannot work on Easter Monday. No other employee has this
problem. Even though the rule applies to all workers,
it only has an "adverse effect" on one. The
employer is required to accommodate the employee, but
only to the point of "undue hardship" to the
business. The employee could be asked to make up the
time on Saturday, at regular rates of pay.
1981, Action Travail des Femmes lodged a complaint with
the Canadian Human Rights commission. The complaint read:
Travail des Femmes has reasonable grounds to believe
that CN Rail in the St. Lawrence Region has established
or pursued a policy or practice that deprives or tends
to deprive a class of individuals of employment opportunities
because they are female."
complaint was a complaint of systemic discrimination
practiced against an identifiable group.
the St. Lawrence Region, a few women worked as dispatchers
for CN, but there were no women employed in the "yard" (the
road to better pay and career advancement). Women were
not encouraged to apply for yard work, and if they did,
their applications were not seriously considered.
Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that CN Rail has
discriminated against women in the St. Lawrence region
who were seeking employment in traditional blue collar
jobs. The Tribunal found that CN Rails recruitment,
hiring and promotion policies prevented and discouraged
women from working in blue collar jobs. The Tribunal
ordered CN Rail to hire one woman in every four new hires
into blue collar positions until the representation of
women reached 13%, which is the national percentage for
women working in equivalent jobs.
Rail appealed this decision to the Federal Court of Appeal,
which ruled the Tribunal did not have authority to impose
a hiring quota. However, when the matter was placed before
the Supreme Court of Canada, the decision of the Federal
Court was overturned. The Supreme Court ruled the Tribunal
may order adoption of a special program designed to prevent
the same or similar (discriminatory) practice occurring
in the future.
measures ordered by the Tribunal were designed to break
a continuing cycle of systemic discrimination against
women. An employment equity program, such as the one
ordered by the Tribunal, is an attempt to ensure that
future applicants and workers from the affected group
will not face the same barriers that blocked their forbearers.