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December 2010



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First Published Wednesday, 8th October, 2008.

Don Butler ,  Canwest News Service

Published: Monday, October 06, 2008

OTTAWA – In what’s believed to be its first autism-related case, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has upheld a complaint against Canada Post by a former Montreal mail carrier.

In a ruling released Monday, the tribunal said Canada Post violated the Canadian Human Rights Act by failing to accommodate Michelle Dawson’s disability and by allowing management staff to harass her.

The decision requires Canada Post to work with the Canadian Human Rights Commission to modify its harassment, discrimination and accommodation policies to conform with the Human Rights Act. It also directs Canada Post to conduct “workplace equity, accommodation and sensitivity training” for managers and staff, with a particular focus on autism.

A file photo of Michelle Dawson sitting in Westmount park in western Montreal. Dawson is autistic and is an austism researcher and prolific writer on the subject.

A file photo of Michelle Dawson sitting in Westmount park in western Montreal. Dawson is autistic and is an austism researcher and prolific writer on the subject. Tyrel Featherstone/Ottawa Citizen

But because Dawson didn’t seek remedial measures, the tribunal did not order Canada Post to reinstate her in her job or pay any fines or compensation.

Dawson, 47, who has been receiving disability benefits since 2003, has become an internationally known researcher and writer on autism issues. She was diagnosed with autism in the early 1990s.

She couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. But on her blog, autismcrisis.blogspot.com, she wrote that the decision “is entirely good for autistics in Canada.

“It is unprecedented in establishing under a human rights law in Canada that autistics . . . are human beings with human rights.”

Dawson started working at Canada Post in 1988 and was widely seen as an exemplary employee. But everything went downhill after she disclosed her diagnosis to Canada Post in April 1999, she testified.

After she appeared at work in July 1999 with self-inflicted wounds – a behaviour often seen among those with autism – some employees felt threatened and sent a letter of concern to management.

Dawson testified that Canada Post treated her as a non-person and acted as if autistic people were bizarre, difficult and unable to speak for themselves.

She also accused specific employees of making discriminatory and harassing comments to her, including one who asserted she had mutilated herself in front of her co-workers.

The tribunal found those remarks to be discriminatory because they “brand Dawson as a violent person in relation to her disability, a perception which is totally, given the evidence, gratuitous.”

It also found that Canada Post managers were guilty of harassment for pressuring Dawson to submit to an independent medical evaluation.

The tribunal said it was “disturbing” that autistic people were seen as a threat to the safety of others and “some form of nuisance in the workplace.” They need to be reassured, it said, that employers will do “everything possible short of undue hardship” to dispel such misconceptions among their employees.

“It goes to the right of autistic individuals to be treated equally, with dignity and respect, free of any discrimination or harassment related to their condition.”

Canada Post spokesman John Caines said management will “work with our human rights group” to ensure the proper follow-up occurs in response to the ruling.

Source:  http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=785008e8-f501-4605-a3da-3bb960b602e7

Congratulations to Michelle

“Another Autistic Victory”:


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