May 5, 2016, Halifax - A former firefighter who said male co-workers disrespected and gossiped about her will have her case heard by a Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission tribunal.
Liane Tessier says she hopes the case will be a catalyst for legal change for women and gender rights across Canada.
''I want the public to know this was not an isolated case. This is systemic,'' she said Thursday.
Tessier first complained almost 10 years ago about gender discrimination at the Herring Cove fire station, within the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).
Tessier said she took a lot of courses, became certified as a training instructor for the fire service, and competed in the firefighter combat challenge for years.
''There were some men in higher ranks, and I seemed to be getting a lot of disrespect from them. I started complaining about it because I was upset about what was starting to happen,'' she said.
She said the problems began around 2005 and when nothing was changing, she filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission in 2007.
Tessier said her first complaint was mired in the investigation phase for almost five years and then dismissed, but the Nova Scotia Supreme Court overturned that and ordered a second investigation. The second investigation determined the case has merit and ordered that it proceed to a board of inquiry, although by then Tessier had quit her job.
Tessier said she loved being a firefighter, but now at the age of 51 she's not sure if she'll ever return to the profession.
No one from the Halifax Regional Municipality was commenting Thursday afternoon, but Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency Chief Doug Trussler issued a statement.
''I have been instructed by our legal department to not comment on the case, as it is now headed to a board of inquiry. However, I would like to point out that in the four years I have been chief of Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency, we have not received a single human rights complaint. That's a record I'm very proud of,'' he wrote.
Tessier said she has seen a shift in culture over the last 10 years, and more women are speaking out about gender issues in the workplace.
''It's a real taboo subject,'' she said. ''We need special policies for women in male dominated workplaces.
''I'm glad this is going to a board of inquiry because I want to make legal change. I want the HRM to acknowledge that this has been going on for decades.''
Melissa MacAdam, Tessier's lawyer, said the case could have huge ramifications beyond the Halifax Regional Municipality.
She said no date has been set for the board of inquiry because members have yet to be appointed.
Tessier said she has spent about $60,000 on legal fees and psychological bills over the last decade to get the case this far.
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016
May 5, 2016 By The Canadian Press
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