One more reason to ditch the human rights commission

April 2014

Two weeks ago, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) filed an appeal in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. The respondents were Ladislav Mihaly and the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

This case provides additional evidence why the human rights commission needs to be abolished.

APEGA was established in 1920 to regulate the practice of engineering, much as the College of Physicians and Surgeons does with doctors, or the law society with lawyers. Today, there are more than 72,000 members. Each year, APEGA receives around 9,000 applications, a quarter of whom are foreign educated.

APEGA developed procedures to ensure that persons designated as professional engineers are qualified. It administers “confirmatory exams,” a Fundamentals of Engineering exam, and a National Professional Practice Examination, which all applicants, Canadian or foreign, have to pass.

The complainant, Mihaly, attended the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava and the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague. His educational pedigree meant that he was required to write the fundamentals exam, but only three confirmatory exams instead of nine. Like everybody, he had to write the National Professional Practice Examination.

In 1999, he failed the National Professional Practice Examination. In 2000, he failed to show up for any exams. In 2003 and 2006, his file was reactivated, and again, he failed to write any exams. On Aug. 5, 2008, he filed a complaint with the human rights commission

Tribunal chair Moosa Jiwaji noted that Mihaly “had some difficulty articulating his argument.” Mihaly’s e-mails, reproduced in Jiwaji’s decision, indicate he could barely write English. Jiwaji added, however, that Mihaly was adept at communicating “his emotions,” notably his “frustration” and his sense of “injury to his dignity.”

In fact, Mihaly was frustrated because APEGA applied consistent standards. By asking for special treatment, any injury to his dignity was self-inflicted.

With the third party, chairman Jiwaji, we enter a world of systematic mistakes. Jiwaji made a number of errors in law that even a non-lawyer can spot. For example, he instructed APEGA to consider exempting Mihaly from the professional practice exam, when Alberta law required the opposite.

In addition, Jiwaji made several findings that never were in evidence and several others that never were addressed either by Mihaly or by APEGA. He even made findings contrary to the evidence. He relied on the pseudo-jurisprudence of other human rights commissions and ignored contrary (and genuine) jurisprudence by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

Jiwaji’s views on the law, to say nothing of his opinions of immigrants and of persons in his former homeland, Kenya, move us into very weird territory indeed.

In this decision, Jiwaji states that APEGA’s “one size fits all” approach to determine professional standards was “unhelpful” to foreign-trained engineers. He preferred a “holistic” approach. This is palpable nonsense.

Engineering standards are not discretionary: bridges either stand up or fall down. Confirmatory exams and exams on engineering fundamentals are central to professional certification. Period.

Impartial standards are analogous to the impartiality of the law itself. Jiwaji announced last fall, however, that “a Constitution means DICK!!” He also thought it was a good idea to rid Nairobi of illegal immigrants: “get rid of all those individuals who are living in Kenya on fake papers. Do DNA tests on all of them.” As commentator Ezra Levant observed on his TV show, this amounts to ethnic cleansing.

When she was running for the PC leadership, Alison Redford promised to reform the human rights commission, starting with the section dealing with freedom of expression. Today, the first step in reform on the way to abolition requires that Moosa Jiwaji be fired.