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Feature Issue: Disability Discrimination Top Ranked Human Rights Issue For Entire Decade

The Tale of Time

Some things change year by year. Others don't change for decades. Sadly, the prominence of disability discrimination, as measured by complaints to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission (MHRC), seems to be stuck on high.

The release by the MHRC of its 2010 Annual Report has provided the first opportunity to review consistent data on human rights complaints over an entire decade. The story told by ten years of data is very different than the one might read by focusing on a single year.

Scanning the Decade

The graphic below compares two percentage figures for each year over the decade. The blue set of bars shows the percent of formal complaints made to the MHRC each year based on the ground of disability discrimination. The second set of yellow bars shows the percent of complaints that were based on the second most frequent ground for each year.

As a quick glance demonstrates, disability discrimination has ranked as the undisputed No. 1 ground for human rights complaints in Manitoba every year over the last decade. Clearly, the percent of complaints made based on disabiity discrimination jumps around a bit but it never dips below 33% (2002) and rises as high as 47% in 2009.

Bar graph of disability and 2nd most frequent ground as percent of all formal complaints per anum, 2001 to 2010

A second finding that emerges is that the gap between the share of complaints based on disability discrimination and the next most frequent ground has been increasing rather substantially. In 2001, the gap was only 5 percentage points. By 2009, the gap had increased to 33 percentage points. Notably, the gap narrowed somewhat in 2010 but the overall trend remains rather obvious - complaints lodged with the MHRC are increasingly becoming concentrated on disability discrimination relative to next most frequent grounds for complaint.

As Janet Forbes, spokesperson for Barrier-Free Manitoba said in the November 17th media release (word / pdf), “Discrimination of any kind in Manitoba today is deeply disturbing. But the lock-step consistency of disability discrimination as the primary ground for complaint is especially troubling. So too is the growing gap between disability and the next most frequent ground for complaint over the years.”

Averaging Over the Decade

Sex including pregnancy was the second most frequent ground for complaint for eight of the ten years in the last decade. Ancestory ranked second in the other two years (2004 and 2006). Indeed, these two grounds represented a total of 21% and 15% of total complaints to the MHRC over the decade.

Complaints based on disability discrimination, in comparison, comprised 39% of total complaints - a greater share than sex and ancestry combined.

 Bar graphc of percent of formal complaints by ground over decade 2001 to 2010

Looking Ahead

Evidently, Manitoba, like other jusridictions, still has a long way to go to address the full continuum of human rights issues faced by its citizens. A big question is whether the data for disability discrimination for the next decade (2011 to 2020) will look any different from the remarkable persistant data from the last ten years.

Barrier-Free Manitoba, along with hundreds of coalitions, groups and individuals, has called on the Province to match its promising words with resolute effort. Barrier-Free Manitoba is calling for strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation as both the right and the reasonable step needed to deal with the pervasive human rights violations faced by persons with disabilities.

"With progress on the impressive new Human Rights Museum coming along so well,” said Ms. Forbes, “it’s well past time that the Government of Manitoba took real action to address the No 1. human rights issue in the province.”