The number of cases of discrimination and harassment brought forward to the SFU administration spiked by 13.5% last year, with the largest portion of complaints surrounding the accommodation of disabilities.
A report by the SFU Human Rights Office, which is responsible for receiving complaints under the university’s human rights policy, stated that there were a total of 295 cases reviewed in 2016, though not all were initiated complaints.
“The majority of the work was providing advice to managers who were dealing with human rights issues and to people who believed themselves to be the targets of harassment or discrimination,” stated office director Brenda Taylor in the report.
However, there were 80 cases filed last year that involved the office in mediation, investigation, and accommodation, according to the report. This maintains a steady increase in the number of such cases filed over the past decade.
Since 2007, when 29 complaints that lead to further investigation were recorded, the figure has risen each year.
It is unclear what is behind the rise in the number of complaints, and the Human Rights Office was unable to respond to The Peak’s request for comment by publication.
This past year, most of the issues pertained to the failure to accommodate disabilities, followed by sexual harassment. There were also a number of cases of personal harassment, or harassment based on grounds of discrimination such as age, race, religion, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation.
The report stated that the majority of those who sought advice perceived that they faced discrimination or harassment and wanted guidance on how to respond to the behaviour, or were management staff looking for advice on how to handle such situations.
These types of inquiries saw an 18% increase from last year. Of these consultations, many were requests from managers for advice on disability accommodation, while others dealt with complaints not under the mandate of the human rights policy such as social status and obesity, the report noted.
The office also fielded consultations regarding gender discrimination including breastfeeding, gender transitioning, and the “denial of service based on perceived gender.”
Similar offices at other post-secondary institutions in the province also release figures of complaints and consultations.
In 2015–16, the University of British Columbia fielded 110 concerns including discrimination and harassment due to sex, race, and ability, according to the university’s annual report.
In the same period, the University of Victoria reports it saw 39 cases filed. However, there is no consistent method for collecting data on complaints among post-secondary institutions in the country.