The Justice Centre wrote to the Alberta Human Rights Commission on behalf of Alberta resident, Todd, who was facing a formal Complaint under the Alberta Human Rights Act, for having asked about the age and gender of a potential babysitter for his young children.
Todd is a single father with two sons, who were ages 5 and 8 at the time. On August 31, 2017, Todd posted an ad on Kijiji looking for a babysitter for an evening. One of those who responded to the ad was the Complainant, James Cyrynowski. Todd replied to Mr. Cyrynowski asking some basic questions about Mr. Cyrynowski, including what town he lived in, what his age was and whether he was male or female. Mr. Cyrynowski answered these questions.
However, Todd’s evening plans fell through, and so he cancelled his plans to hire a sitter. Todd didn’t contact Cyrynowski further. Mr. Cyrynowski did not follow up with Todd either.
Rather than follow up with Todd, Mr. Cyrynowski filed a Human Rights Complaint against Todd the very next day, alleging discrimination on the basis of age and gender, in violation of section 8 of the Alberta Human Rights Act.
The Justice Centre represented Todd pro bono in this case, and learned that Todd is one of many parents who, after they did not hire Mr. Cyrynowski as a babysitter, were subsequently subject to Human Rights Complaints.
One such Complaint has already been completely adjudicated all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada as a test case. In that case, Mr. Cyrynowski filed a complaint against the mother of a five-year-old boy, who placed a Kijiji ad stating her preference for “an older lady with experience :).” A human rights investigator recommended that the mother be required to pay Mr. Cyrynowski $1000-$1500 for “damages to dignity.”
The Director and Chief Commissioner of the Alberta Human Rights Commission dismissed Mr. Cyrynowski’s complaint against this mother. The Chief Commissioner stated that the parent’s “preference for who looks after her child in her own home” is a bona fide occupational requirement; the mother is entitled to insist on a babysitter who is older and female.
That holding was affirmed as reasonable by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, in its 2017 decision in Cyrynowski v Alberta (Human Rights Commission), 2017 ABQB 745. Writing in that case, Justice Pentelechuck urged that the Alberta Human Rights Act be reformed, stating specifically that “it may be inappropriate to subject employers – in situations where the provision of personal services in a private home setting is engaged – to strict advertising and hiring requirements.” Mr. Cyrynowski’s further appeals of this test case to the Alberta Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada were denied.
Since 2017, the Alberta Government has not taken further action to review the Alberta Human Rights Act.
The Justice Centre’s letter to the Commission requested that the Director dismiss the Complaint for the reasons set out in Cyrynowski case, and on account of the constitutional rights of Todd and his children that would be violated by proceeding with the Complaint.
On October 17, 2019, over two years after Cyrynowski filed his human rights complaint against Todd, with his Complaint facing dismissal, Cyrynowski dropped his Complaint.