The Justice Centre has again written to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, this time on behalf of an Alberta mom who is facing a Human Rights Complaint for simply asking a potential babysitter whether he had kids.
Danielle, whose surname is redacted to protect her family’s privacy, is an Edmonton mother of three young children. In February of this year, Danielle posted an ad on Kijiji looking for a babysitter for her children.
On February 6, 2019, the Complainant, James Cyrynowski, responded to the ad detailing his credentials and experience. Danielle responded by asking James whether he had any children of his own and about his employment status, and by requesting references.
Numerous people contacted Danielle in response to the ad. Danielle ultimately retained a babysitter who lived in her neighbourhood and worked close to her children’s daycare. Danielle did not follow up further with Cyrynowski or with other individuals who had contacted her online.
Likewise, Cyrynowski did not make any attempt to follow up with Danielle. Rather, on April 30, 2019, he filed a Complaint against Danielle, alleging discrimination on the basis of family status in violation of section 8 of the Alberta Human Rights Act. In his Complaint, he stated:
I applied for a caregiver job on Kijiji. I was asked if I have children. I do not. I did not get the job.
On June 6, 2019, the Alberta Human Rights Commission accepted Cyrynowski’s complaint against Danielle, and sent her a letter requiring that she provide a detailed response to the Complaint. This has caused Danielle significant stress and anxiety as she has been forced to attempt to respond to these legal proceedings filed against her.
Cyrynowski is the same Complainant who filed a Human Rights Complaint against Todd, a single father of two who asked Cyrynowski to provide his age and gender when he applied to babysit Todd’s children. After announcing that it would represent Todd pro bono, the Justice Centre learned of Danielle’s case and agreed to represent her on a pro bono basis until the Complaint is dismissed.
The Commission’s decision to accept and investigate Cyrynowski’s complaints has come under scrutiny in light of the Commission’s own precedent in a similar case, in which the Commission ruled that parents have the right to hire babysitters based on the parents’ own preferences. In this previous case, Cyrynowski filed a complaint against a 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 Cyrynowski $1,000 to $1,500 for “damages to dignity.” The investigator’s recommendation was rejected by the Director and Chief Commissioner of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, who dismissed Cyrynowski’s complaint and upheld the right of a parent to exercise her own preference in regard to who looks after her child in her own home. Cyrynowski appealed the Commission’s decision to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, then to the Alberta Court of Appeal, and both courts upheld the Commission’s rejection of Cyrynowski’s complaint. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear a further appeal.
In her 2017 decision on the Cyrynowski test case, Justice Pentelechuk specifically found that legislative review and reform was needed to clarify the Alberta Human Rights Act. However, to date, the Alberta Government has not taken further action to review the Alberta Human Rights Act.
The Justice Centre has written a letter to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, calling on the Commission to dismiss the Complaint against Danielle and respect the rights of children and parents protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Thwarting parents from even making basic inquiries about a babysitter, including about whether have kids, is inconsistent with giving “utmost deference” to parents’ preferences concerning a babysitter for their children. It is also inconsistent with the fact that parents preferences as to who should babysit their children are bona fide occupational requirements in this context. For the reasons stated in the Cyrynowski case, this Complaint should be dismissed.
We encourage any parents facing these complaints to contact us to receive help free of charge in defending against this state overreach into their personal lives.