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Settlement reached in Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission Complaint

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC), Halifax Regional Municipality, and Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency (HRFE) have settled a complaint filed by Liane Tessier alleging historic systemic discrimination based on gender.

As a result, there will be no further proceedings in this complaint.

“We’re sorry that Ms. Tessier had to go through such a lengthy process in order for this matter to come to resolution,” said Kymberly Franklin, Senior Legal Counsel at the NSHRC. “We credit her for sticking with her complaint. The investigation into this matter has been very thorough and now other female fire fighters in Nova Scotia should also benefit from the outcome.”

“The Halifax Fire and Emergency Service has admitted that historic systemic discrimination took place based on gender as result of a complaint filed by Ms. Tessier,” said Ms. Franklin. “We commend them for taking steps to change their policies and practices to help prevent harassment and discrimination faced by female fire fighters.”

Ms. Tessier was a volunteer firefighter from 1998 to 2006. From January 2005 to May 2006, Ms. Tessier also worked as a paid casual firefighter.

On May 21, 2008, Ms. Tessier filed a human rights complaint against the municipality and HRFE alleging discrimination based on gender. Her complaint was amended in 2014 to add historic systemic discrimination based on gender within the fire service.

Ms. Tessier’s personal human rights complaint of gender discrimination has been settled. In addition, the systemic discrimination complaint has also been settled, with assistance from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

HRFE acknowledges there has been a systemic issue within the fire service concerning the treatment of female firefighters. The department is committed to ensuring this is addressed through the ongoing changes that have been made since the filing of Ms. Tessier’s complaint.

“This press conference is an important milestone in my 10-year fight,” said Ms. Tessier. “But it’s not the end. The public apology acknowledging what I, and other women, have experienced is a step in the right direction.

“Gender-based violence is not going to stop because of this apology. But hopefully my struggle, this settlement, and this public apology, will put other employers on notice,” Ms. Tessier said. “They are going to have to act. They are going to have to walk their talk. I am watching, and now the public is too.”

As part of the settlement, Fire Chief Ken Stuebing has formally apologized to Ms. Tessier and to any other female firefighter who has experienced gender discrimination while a member of HRFE.

“As an organization, we must ensure our female firefighters feel welcome, valued, and respected as members of our team,” said Chief Stuebing. “As the chief, it is my responsibility to ensure our workplace is free from all language and behaviours meant to hurt, undervalue, or discriminate.”

The fire service is committed to ensuring HRFE is a welcoming and accepting workplace for women. Initiatives include specialized training for firefighters, independent investigations of internal complaints filed against the fire service, and a strong focus on improving the number of female firefighters in the department.

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Source: Media Release

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