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Attaran alleges that his position on the Canada Research Chair was not renewed due to discrimination, rather than a lack of merit. Photo: CC, Natural RX.

Law professor to take case to the Human Rights Tribunal

On Nov. 1, Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, filed a suit against both the university and the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO) through Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal on the basis of racial discrimination.

Attaran, who is a former Canada Research Chair holder, was denied a renewal in the position, and he alleges that this was due to discriminatory practices.

Attaran is now seeking a compensation of $30,000 for lost income, along with $160,000 for “loss of dignity and distress,” according to the Ottawa Citizen.

In an interview with the Fulcrum, Attaran said that suing both the university and the APUO is “a bit difficult for (him) personally,” since he was formerly a member on the APUO committee. However, he is choosing to go through with the lawsuit because “the university and APUO have collaborated in order to normalize discrimination.”

The APUO has not moved Attaran’s grievances to arbitration as of the date of this publication.

“If the union is not willing to do anything about an employee being discriminated against, if the union is not prepared to deal with it, absolutely they need to be accountable by an outside body,” Attaran said, explaining that he did not believe the discrimination issue would be solved internally.

The Fulcrum reached out to the U of O’s media relations department on the issue, but because the case involves the Human Rights Tribunal they were unable to provide a comment.

Section 17.1.6 of the APUO Collective Agreement stresses the importance of employment equity in regards to employment of men and women where they are underrepresented.

The agreement also states, “the parties to the collective agreement may from time to time agree to designate as equity groups for the purpose of this provision, the following groups: Aboriginal peoples; persons with disabilities; and members of visible minorities.”

Attaran believes that the university, through their hiring practices, is committing “intentional discrimination to these three groups.”

Two weeks prior to filing the lawsuit through the Human Rights Tribunal, Attaran urged other members of the equity committee to present information about the underrepresented groupsIndigenous people, visible minorities, persons with disabilitiesand the committee did not present a concise timeline as to when such information could be obtained, according to Attaran.

“That was the last straw,” said Attaran. Following this meeting, the university and the APUO received an email from Attaran telling them that he was taking the case to the Human Rights Tribunal.

Attaran believes that the U of O and the APUO “have no mandatory equity provisions except for women and men,” and “do nothing to ensure equity among visible minorities.”

“This is a discriminatory culture, it is a discriminatory university, it is a discriminatory union,” he said.

“I spent years learning the law so that it be respected, not so that I learn the law and simply smile at people when they violate it. No, when they violate it I’m going to hold them accountable—that’s what a lawyer does.”