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ANOTHER AUTISTIC VICTORY
by Michelle Dawson
"... the Tribunal finds that the complaint filed by Ms. Dawson against Canada Post is substantiated and that the Respondent has contravened sections 7 and 14 of the Act."That's from paragraph 248 of a decision released by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on the morning of October 3, 2008, in the first ever autism-related case referred to this Tribunal for a hearing.
In some ways it's a very strange decision, with a stupefying number of just huge factual errors in it. Due to my own incompetence in representing myself (and in just generally functioning throughout the extensive hearings) and for other reasons, including the enormous factual errors made by the Tribunal, I lost some aspects of this case. But to my own astonishment, I won other aspects. Indeed the aspects I won are those most important to me, and also those which I was firmly discouraged from pursuing by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (which was a party to this case, representing the public interest).
Setting aside the astounding factual errors about the specifics of the case, as I believe they should be set aside, and setting aside my own personal situation, as I believe should also be set aside, this decision is entirely good for autistics in Canada. It is unprecedented in establishing under a human rights law in Canada that autistics--as autistic people, and regardless of what kinds of interventions we may or may not have received--are human beings with human rights.
Here is an excerpt:
 Be this as it may, the Tribunal finds it disturbing for the future of autistic people that they be seen because of their condition to pose a threat to the safety of others and some form of nuisance in the workplace. An employer has a duty to ensure not only that all employees work in a safe environment but also that ill perceptions about an employee's condition due to poor or inadequate information about his disability lead other employees to have negative and ill-founded perceptions about him.What I was dreading most was the same thing I had dreaded in Auton at the Supreme Court of Canada: a decision that would harm autistics, would make our lives even more difficult, would further limit our possibilities, would make it less likely that we would ever be given the opportunity to demonstrate our ability to contribute to society as autistic people. But this Tribunal decision, for all its faults with respect to the facts of the specific case, is instead a step in the right direction. It's a step towards human rights for autistics in Canada, and towards all the possibilities human beings have, when we are regarded and treated as equals, and can proceed in society as fully human beings with human rights and dignity.
As one autistic person, I did the best I could (with many thanks to those who helped along the way). And I didn't win every aspect of this specific--and very difficult and exhausting--case. But for all autistic people, this Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision is a one hundred percent victory.
[Note: for clarity, the title "Another autistic victory” alludes to a 2005 article I wrote called "An autistic victory,” about the Auton Supreme Court of Canada decision.]
|© Michelle Dawson 2008 | Published October 4, 2008|
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