Human Rights Act intrusive: Todd
Territorial government wants Supreme Court to rule on pay equity

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 21/97) - The Canadian Human Rights Act is an intrusion on the management of the public service, says Finance Minister John Todd.

As a result, the Territorial government will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to decide whether the act applies in the territories.

"Our government believes the act should not intrude on the management and direction of the public service," Todd (left) said in a press release last week.

At issue is a nearly decade-old complaint filed under the Act by the Union of Northern Workers (UNW).

The union maintains the government has underpaid female workers. UNW president Jackie Simpson has estimated almost $70 million is owed current and former workers, dating back to 1988.

Last month the Federal Court of Appeal rejected the government's contention that the act does not apply to the GNWT.

Within the next three months the Supreme Court will rule on whether or not it will hear the appeal.

Bob Fagan, regional director for Canadian Human Rights Commission, said the act does apply because the NWT has no human rights legislation. Every other province and territory has its own act.

"That's the whole point, really -- there is no human rights commission in the Northwest Territories and that's why we feel our act applies."

In announcing its decision to appeal, the government said human rights are already covered by the Fair Practices Act.

The government goes further, saying initiatives were taken during the last round of collective bargaining to restructure employee wage and benefit packages.

The government gave nurses a raise in pay.

"If that's what they call 'initiatives,' we're just not working out of the same dictionary," said Simpson.

Pay equity was not even mentioned at the negotiating table, said the UNW president.

Todd is in his Keewatin Central riding on what his secretary described as a working vacation.