By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
A case brought forward by a candidate in February’s Whitby-Oshawa provincial by-election who said he was unfairly kept out of public debates has been tossed out.
Greg Vezina, the leader of the None of the Above Party, brought the case forward to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), “alleging discrimination in employment and services because of creed contrary to the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H. 19,” according to Jo-Anne Pickel, the vice-chair of the tribunal and author of its decision on the case.
Vezina brought the legal action against Elections Ontario, the Town of Whitby, Whitby Chamber of Commerce, along with the Liberal, Progressive Conservative, NDP and Green Party, along with their respective by-election candidates, after he was not invited to two public all-candidates forums.
In addition to claiming his Human Rights Code rights had been violated, Vezina said his Charter rights – specifically, his right to freedom of thought and belief, freedom of democratic rights and right to equality before and under the law – were violated when the debates, hosted by the Whitby Chamber of Commerce, only invited candidates from the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, NDP and Green Party.
According to the final decision, the HRTO dismissed the case after it found it did not have jurisdiction over the allegations being made by Vezina.
“I find that it is plain and obvious that the applicant’s claims against the respondents do not fall within the tribunal’s jurisdiction under the (Human Rights) Code,” Pickel writes in her decision.
“The Tribunal only has jurisdiction over the anti-discrimination protections set out in the (Human Rights) Code. It does not have jurisdiction over general claims of unfairness. It also does not have jurisdiction over alleged violations of other legislation, constitutional instruments such as the Charter, or international treaties.”
When discussing Vezina’s allegations his rights under the Human Rights Code were violated, Pickel writes that his use of the “creed” provision was incorrect, writing “applicant describes his creed as his belief that ‘registered party leaders and all candidates have the right to be able to communicate with electors during and in between elections.’ This belief or opinion does not fall under the code’s protections against discrimination based on creed.”
When asked for comment by The Oshawa Express, Jennifer Lombardi, a spokesperson for Elections Ontario, offered a brief statement.
“Thank you for your question, the decision speaks for itself.”
“Canada is far less of a democracy than America is”
When contacted by The Oshawa Express, Vezina says he does not buy the idea that political belief is not covered under the Human Rights Code.
“They sent me a notice of intent to dismiss, and I replied with case law that said political belief has not been determined not to be covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code in two cases,” he says.
“In both cases, the court said that a party with a philosophy, such as the Communist Party or another party with a basic political philosophy different than others would certainly be covered.”
Vezina says that he plans on going back to court to fight this case, with hopes that an event like what happened with him during the Whitby-Oshawa by-election does not happen again.
“I advised (the Human Rights Tribunal) that if they didn’t make this decision, I would follow the legal procedure to use Section 3 of the Charter to order the court to write in, read in political thought and belief into the Human Rights Code, and order them to deal with my complaint, and that is exactly what I am going to do,” he says.
“Why would we both running in the Scarborough by-election when we’re not allowed in debates on public property? We’re looking at the circus that is American major party politics – Canada is far less of a democracy than America is.”