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Human Rights Commission dismisses babysitter complaint against Alberta mother

EDMONTON: The Alberta Human Rights Commission has dismissed a complaint against an Alberta mother who had asked a potential babysitter whether he had children of his own. The complaint was originally filed in spring 2019 by serial complainant, James Cyrynowski. Cyrynowski made national headlines after filing complaints against at least two different Edmonton-area parents for allegedly violating the Alberta Human Rights Act, based on the parents’ requests for information about Cyrynowski’s age and gender, and whether he had children of his own. Both parents had posted ads on Kijiji looking for a babysitter, and Cyrynowski had responded to the ads.

Danielle, whose surname is redacted to protect her family’s privacy, is an Edmonton mother of three young children. In February 2019, 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. Danielle replied by asking James about his employment status, whether he had any children of his own and requesting references.

Numerous people contacted Danielle in response to the ad. Danielle ultimately selected a babysitter who lived in her neighborhood 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 communicate further with Danielle. Instead, 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 Complaint accepted Cyrynowski’s complaint against Danielle, and sent her a letter requiring that she provide a detailed response to the Complaint. This has caused the mother significant stress and anxiety as she was 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 was also subject to a Human Rights Complaint for asking Cyrynowski to provide his age and gender when he applied to babysit Todd’s children. In October 2019, two years after he filed a complaint against Todd, Cyrynowski dropped that complaint, after the Justice Centre represented Todd and demanded the Commission dismiss the Complaint.

The Commission's decision to accept and investigate Cyrynowski’s complaints in the first place came under scrutiny in light of the Commission’s own precedent in a similar test case, also instigated by Cyrynowski, in which the Commission ruled that parents have the right to hire babysitters based on the parents’ own preferences.

In this precedent-setting 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 initially 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 instead 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 Dawn Pentelechuk specifically found that legislative review and reform was needed to clarify the Alberta Human Rights Act, which fails to expressly exempt the provision of personal services in a private home from scrutiny under the Act. However, to date, the Alberta Government has not taken further action to review the Alberta Human Rights Act.

In October 2019, the Justice Centre wrote 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:

There is no justification for government interference, via the Commission, in parents’ personal choices for babysitters for their children. We request that the Complaint be dismissed.

Both the investigating Human Rights Officer and the Commission’s Northern Director agreed and recommended that the Complaint be dismissed in 2019.

“Parents’ personal decisions about who should babysit their children should not be subject to the dictates of the Alberta Human Rights Commission,” explains Justice Centre staff lawyer Marty Moore, who represents both Danielle and the single father previously investigated.

“It is a sad state of affairs when numerous Alberta parents are subjected to the stress of the Alberta Human Rights Commission process simply for seeking to make informed decisions for the care of their own children,” continues Moore. “Parents have the right to decide on the best caregiver to entrust with their children.”

“Our client is very happy to hear that the complaint against her has been dismissed,” states Moore. “We urge the Alberta Government and Human Rights Commission to prevent other careful parents from being subjected to this long and unnecessary process.”

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