Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Senior's rights not violated: adjudicator

Case brought by panel against firm dismissed

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A human rights case involving a senior and the delays accommodating her disabilities by a life-lease condo landlord has been dismissed.

Adjudicator Peter Sim ruled Cornerstone Housing Corp. met its obligations to reasonably accommodate the needs of 85-year-old Dorothy Englot, in a decision released Friday.

At issue was to what extent Cornerstone disregarded the stated needs of the disabled tenant. Englot moved into the new condo unit in North Kildonan in 2011 with the understanding her mobility issues would be addressed.

But she had to endure lengthy delays before aids such as grab bars and a bathroom lift chair were installed. She was unable to use the toilet and bathtub for nearly a year and undertook more than $10,000 in renovations on her own. The Manitoba Human Rights Commission argued Cornerstone did not take adequate steps to determine Englot's needs and accommodate them. To meet most of her needs, Cornerstone waited until after the condo suite was built and ready for occupancy.

But Sim, a lawyer the province appointed to adjudicate, said accommodations only have to be reasonable, not perfect, and determined Cornerstone had acted reasonably. He also said not all the complainant's needs were made clear to Cornerstone.

Cornerstone is a non-profit corporation owned by a group called the Association of Reformed Christians in Action. Its board members are volunteers.

The human rights commission of inquiry decision marks a rare defeat for the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. The commission expressed disappointment in the adjudicator's decision.

Azim Jiwa, commission executive director, said the case had potential to break new ground in accommodation rights for seniors with mobility issues at a time Canada faces an increasingly older population.

"We were hoping there would be greater recognition for the rights of disabled individuals," Jiwa said.

The commission is studying whether to seek a judicial review. Its decision is expected within a week.

A judicial review is where the court looks at such things as whether the law was applied correctly, or whether the conclusion has been reasonably reached.

"We haven't gone regularly to a judicial review when we've lost a case, but we feel this particular issue is important," Jiwa said.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2014 A11

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