The main goal of this policy is to provide clear, user-friendly guidance to organizations, policy makers, litigants, adjudicators and others on how to assess, handle and resolve competing rights claims. The policy will help various sectors, organizations and individuals deal with everyday situations of competing rights, and avoid the time and expense of bringing a legal challenge before a court or human rights decision-maker.
It is in keeping with promoting social harmony to ensure that effective conflict resolution mechanisms are in place to address various types of conflict. This policy provides a framework for addressing competing rights situations that can be used as is, or adapted to meet the specific needs of individual organizations.
The courts have been clear that context is crucial in competing rights cases and each situation must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. This policy is intended to be a useful tool for individuals and organizations as they deal with different types of conflict.
It sets out a process, based in existing case law, to analyze and reconcile competing rights. This process is flexible and can apply to any competing rights claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provincial or federal human rights legislation or another legislative scheme.
The process builds in specific objectives and considerations for the organizations and individuals involved. They should:
- show dignity and respect for one another
- encourage mutual recognition of interests, rights and obligations
- facilitate maximum recognition of rights, wherever possible
- help parties to understand the scope of their rights and obligations
- address stigma and power imbalances and help to give marginalized individuals
- and groups a voice
- encourage cooperation and shared responsibility for finding agreeable solutions
- that maximize enjoyment of rights.
The approach in this policy can help organizations and decision-makers resolve and even avoid apparent rights conflicts altogether. But in some cases litigation may be unavoidable, particularly where matters prove to be too complex to resolve informally, where parties are not willing to take part in the reconciliation process, or where all concerned may want the guidance of a court or tribunal.