Human Rights Commissions and Expert Testimony

National Capital Alliance on Race Relations (NCARR) v. Health and Welfare Canada (1997)

Dr. Shiv Chopra was a Health Canada scientist with a Ph.D. in microbiology from McGill University when he was a focus of a complaint brought by the National Capital Alliance on Race Relations (in which Dr. Chopra was an active participant, and had served as president) alleging discrimination by Health and Welfare Canada (later Health Canada) against visible minorities, in depriving them of opportunities in management and senior professional jobs. This was the first case before the CHRC alleging “systemic discrimination,” and lead to a Tribunal decision in favour of the complainant, and ordering Health Canada to implement an employment equity remedy.

Jeff worked with the CHRC and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) in designing and analyzing a survey of PIPSC members, the results of which became critical evidence in the CHRC case against Health Canada.

Dr. Shiv Chopra

The original decision in the case emphasizes the significance of Jeff’s survey evidence. The elements in the evidence of “systemic discrimination” were described in an article written in collaboration with Helen Beck, CHRC lawyer in the case, and Nan Weiner, a human resources professional, who also participated in the case. See J. H. Beck, J.G. Reitz, and N. Weiner, “Addressing Systemic Racial Discrimination in Employment: The Health Canada Case and Implications of Legislative Change,” Canadian Public Policy 28,3: 373-394. NCARR v. Health Canada continues to be cited as a landmark case in litigation on workplace discrimination. See for example “Strengthening the Commission’s Handline of Race-Based Cases,” Mark Hart, Consultant’s Report, 2020. A legal discussion is available here.

Gian Sangha v. Mackenzie Valley Land & Water Board (2005)

Gian S. Sangha, a Sikh from India, was a middle-aged environmental scientist with a Ph.D. from a German University, when he fined a complaint with the CHRC that the Mackenzie Valley Land & Water Board discriminated against him by refusing to employ him on the basis of his race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion and age. The Board denied discriminating, stating that complainant was not hired because his experience and education were far beyond the requirement for the position – i.e., ‘overqualified.’ Jeff provided testimony at the tribunal hearing that contributed importantly to the success of Dr. Sangha’s case (see the final decision of the tribunal).

The story was covered in the New York Times, 5 June 2005, “Some Skilled Foreigners Find Jobs Scarce in Canada.”

Some Skilled Foreigners Find Jobs Scarce in Canada – New York Times 5 June 2005

Jeff’s testimony at a Human Rights Tribunal, held in Yellowknife, NWT, included various subjects related to Dr. Sangha’s case: the education and experience of immigrants and visible minorities, employment barriers they face, and the under-representation of immigrants in highly-skilled occupations. He stated that as a result of employment barriers, immigrants often accept work for which they are over-qualified, and that the stereotype that over-qualified workers are less satisfactory does not apply to skilled immigrants. He concluded that rejecting an immigrant on the basis that they are overqualified represented discriminatory treatment.

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