Professor reopens Human Rights Tribunal application against Queen’s

A decade later, Adèle Mercier takes fight back to Tribunal

Professor Adèle Mercier reactivating Human Rights Tribunal case.
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Philosophy professor Adèle Mercier filed one application with the Human Rights Tribunal Ontario of Ontario in 2010, and another in 2014. But because of an ongoing legal fight with Queen’s, her applications were deferred by the Tribunal.

That legal fight was resolved on Jan. 29, 2019, and in July, Mercier requested that the Tribunal reopen her original applications of gender discrimination against the University. 

On Nov. 20, the Tribunal granted Mercier’s request, consolidating the two applications into one and allowing it to proceed.

“The applicant’s request to reactivate the application is granted since the other proceeding has concluded,” Vandana Patel, vice-chair of the Human Rights Tribunal Ontario, wrote in her decision to reopen the case. 

Parties were required to submit any written responses by Dec. 2, 2019. 

In a statement to The Journal, the University said it would not comment on specific cases. According to Mercier, the University has hired Baker McKenzie, a law firm based in Toronto, as its representative. Mercier is self-represented. 

In 2008, Mercier said there was an increase in the amount of graduate students at Queen’s, which in turn increased the amount of women students in philosophy classes. She and two other senior professors heard complaints from their female students that ranged from being ignored by professors in class to outright hostility from their male counterparts. 

In addition to meeting with these women to hear about their experiences in the philosophy department, Mercier received letters from female graduate students detailing their time at Queen’s.

“It’s every graduate woman’s experience, I think, at least in philosophy, that a woman will make a comment and it’ll get zero pickup, zero uptake. Five minutes later, some guy will say the same thing and it will be interesting, it will get uptake and be discussed.”

Mercier said the increase of women in the classroom alerted her students to a pattern of gender discrimination.

“When there are other women in the room, they’ll notice,” she said. 

As previously reported by The Journal in 2014, Mercier accused Queen’s of using intimidation techniques to silence her and the other two professors after she filed a complaint of gender discrimination in the philosophy department.

“We activated the application because it was very, very clear that I was beaten up because I exercised my right to complain, and I don’t want this happening to anybody ever again,” Mercier said.

She added that, while the department conducted an external climate review in 2010, her original complaint was never investigated.

“There has never been an investigation into my complaint, so that’s one thing I want to complain about at the Human Rights Tribunal,” she said.

Mercier’s original two applications were initially deferred because she filed other labour grievances with Queen’s. 

In 2013, Mercier was removed from her office in Watson Hall, igniting a six-year legal battle that ended in her being awarded $25,000 for general and punitive damages, compensating for mental distress arising from injury to dignity and foreseeable harm to reputation.

After the withdrawal of four other labour grievances, Mercier was able to reopen her original files. 

“I’m going to finish what I started, because I refuse to let them have bullied me away,” she said.

 

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