October 17th, 2018

Role of Human Rights Commission in Tony Hall case


By Kuhl, Nick on June 6, 2018.

Part three of a special five-part report

Nick Kuhl

Lethbridge Herald

nkuhl@lethbridgeherald.com

Here is part three of The Herald’s sit-down with Tony Hall.

Herald: Can you comment please on the role of the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in this case?

Hall: “Sure Nick. I have learned from documents obtained from the Alberta Ministry of Justice’s FOIP Office that in early September of 2016 the Ministry’s ‘Human Rights Commission Group’ was shipped materials pertaining to what I have termed the Facebook deception. This transfer of material happened before I was made aware of the smear campaign against me beginning with highlighting the offensive digital item as if it represented my views.

“On Sept. 1 the president of the Canadian Jewish Civil Rights Association, Bert Raphael Q.C., wrote to Dr. Mahon to assert that the offensive text ‘came from my lips.’ Mr. Raphael added, I would ‘respectfully suggest that such an odious pronouncement would warrant Professor Hall’s dismissal from your University.’

“On seeing these comments, why did not Dr. Mahon contact me immediately to seek my side of the story concerning the offensive digital item? To this day I have not discussed face-to-face this topic or any topic with the elusive Dr. Mahon. Why did Dr. Mahon fail to do due diligence by investigating personally the Facebook episode to assure the safety of faculty, students, administrators and support staff at our school? Did Dr. Mahon fail to contact me personally because he was involved in a plot to keep me in the dark about what was happening for as long as possible?

“The Oct. 3 letter introducing the suspension included an allegation that made oblique reference to the digital item at the heart of the furor. It indicated that my Facebook page was ‘being used for virulent anti-semitic comments.’ Who was using the page in this way? What was the intention of B’nai Brith Canada in wrongfully attributing to me ‘anti-semitic comments’ that I did not author, invite or sanction on my Facebook wall? What prior or subsequent knowledge, if any, did the university administration have of the Facebook deception? Why does the university administration so persistently avoid answering this question, one that I have asked repeatedly?

“Throughout the autumn of 2016 Dr. Mahon made frequent reference to a complaint being prepared by the U of L Board of Governors to be put before the AHRC. When this complaint was submitted in mid-December of 2016 it was accompanied by an announcement that my pay was being restored.

“As indicated on Jan. 17, 2017 in a widely published news story picked up from the Canadian Press, it was B’nai Brith official Amanda Hohmann, not a U of L official, who explained the restoration of pay. Ms. Hohmann explained in the press report, ‘Certainly, we would support anything that means that the complaint would be handled properly and is going to succeedÉ We would hate to see something like this thrown out on a technicality.’

“Why is a B’nai Brith Canada official explaining for the media an internal decision by the university administration about a change in policy concerning the pay of a suspended faculty member? As I see it, this statement on behalf of the University of Lethbridge by a B’nai Brith spokesperson adds to the evidence of an especially close collaboration between the school’s administrative branch and a core agency of a powerful political lobby.

“The preparation of the complaint to the AHRC was apparently developed through a series of secret investigations conducted outside the rules of the collective agreement. Dr. Owen Holmes has recently brought forward a surprising account of these investigations sometimes defined in media reports as ‘internal’ and sometimes identified as ‘external.’ Dr. Holmes, who is now in his 80s, was one of the main founders of the University of Lethbridge. On April 23 Dr. Holmes distributed yet another of his written missives in what he describes ‘as a series of communications intended to encourage all parties to seek early resolution of the issues [this case] has spawned, with copies widely distributed for transparency.’

“In the April 23 item Dr. Holmes wrote, ‘From published materials and miscellaneous incidental sources, I count that over the last couple of years Hall’s professional work has been assessed at least a dozen different times, half within the U of L and half by external bodies that gained intrusive foothold only through the failed trusteeship of a weak and incompetent Board.’ Dr. Holmes added, ‘not one of these operations had a trace of respectability in relation to the fundamentals of academic due process . . . Even Franz Kafka would be impressed.’

“To this day the university administration has not reported to the university community or to ULFA or to me that the board’s original complaint to the AHRC was rejected. The AHRC’s letter of rejection issued on Feb. 13, 2017 contained a number of written reasons I have cited in my 500-page report to the investigating panel. The AHRC’s rejection was authored by AHRC official John Gabriele.

“A second board complaint to the AHRC was subsequently accepted for consideration of the AHRC. I wrote a response to the second complaint but withheld it until Judge Glen H. Poelman’s court ruling of Sept. 15. Judge Poelman’s ruling upheld the Alberta government’s legal capacity to appoint an arbitrator to look into ULFA grievances generated by the original suspension and by subsequent board breaches of my right to privacy.

“After Judge Poelman denied the board’s request for a stay of proceedings and a judicial review of the whole matter, the university administration terminated its relationship with lawyer, Robert W. Thompson of Code Hunter Law Firm in Calgary. The board’s new Edmonton-based lawyer, together with ULFA’s lawyer, Leanne Chahley, then went to work on expediting subsequent procedures resulting in the tripartite agreement of Oct. 30, 2017.

“In this agreement the board agreed to withdraw its second complaint to the AHRC even as ULFA agreed to ask the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) to withdraw its very consequential threat to censure the University of Lethbridge. The sidelining of the AHRC in this matter opened the way to bring the controversy properly within the framework of the collective agreement where it now resides.

“In my view this shift away from the AHRC and towards the workings of the collective agreement at the University of Lethbridge has important positive implications for the shared professional interests of all university faculty members in Canada. While this recent development points in the right direction, however, many fundamental aspects of this case remain unresolved and in some instances in limbo.”

U of L officials were given the opportunity by The Herald to respond to all of Hall’s direct claims. They provided this statement:

“The University of Lethbridge will not provide any comment on the background or the process currently underway related to Dr. Hall. The process was agreed to by Dr. Hall, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) and the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors. To comment at this time would be inappropriate and irresponsible.”

See Thursday’s Herald for part four of this special five-part series.

Follow @NKuhlHerald on Twitter

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