Alberta court rules that engineering association did not discriminate
Judge overturns human rights tribunal ruling that found APEGA should give applicant from Slovakia special options to help him certify.
The Alberta Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (APEGA) has won an appeal against a decision by the Alberta Human Rights Commission concerning an internationally trained engineer.
Madam Justice Ross of the Court of Queen’s Bench reversed the human rights commission’s decision that the association had discriminated against Ladislav Mihaly based on his country of origin, the Slovak Republic.
Mihaly had first applied to the association in 2009, but he failed two examinations and then refused to take other tests. He took the ethics examination but failed it as well.
He took his complaint to the human rights commission and in 2014 the commission found in his favour. It ordered APEGA to pay him $10,000 in compensation.
The association also had to provide Mihaly with a mentor to help him to “network with other foreign engineering graduates facing similar challenges” and “to assist him to increase his fluency and facility in the use of the English Language.”
The association also was ordered to create a committee that “preferably includes engineers who received their qualifications in institutions and countries outside of Canada” in order to individually assess Mihaly’s qualifications, and possibly include other options for helping him to qualify. These options “may include exemptions from the Fundamentals of Engineering exam….” As well it was suggested that APEGA should collaborate with universities to offer programs to foreign trained engineers.
Justice Ross found that the tribunal’s orders were unfair to APEGA: “These directions go beyond the scope of any discriminatory conduct found or even alleged,” she wrote. She said that for APEGA to appoint a committee and provide assistance as outlined by the tribunal would require significant resources and costs.
Then she wrote, “More significant than the Tribunal’s assessment of cost, is his [Mihaly’s] failure to consider the impact that this form of accommodation would have on APEGA, fundamentally altering its standards and being required to act outside of its regulatory role.”
She discredited the findings of the tribunal: “The Tribunal’s reasons leading to his conclusion that APEGA could have accommodated Mr. Mihaly and others sharing his characteristics are rife with logical errors, findings of fact that are not supported by the evidence, and failures to take into account relevant considerations.”
Following Justice Ross’s decision, in a statement on January 27, Mark Flint, P.Eng., chief executive officer of APEGA, noted that the association’s paramount concern is preserving the public interest. He said that if the decision of the human rights tribunal had withstood the appeal, it would have had a negative impact not just on the regulation of the engineering profession, but also on other regulated professions such as geoscience, medicine, law, dentistry, and accounting. The result would have been “an unacceptable increase in risk to public safety and well-being.”
APEGA’s registrar, Carol Moen, P.Eng., said of their appeal’s success: “I believe the decision confirms the fact that APEGA’s application process is fair, equitable, and transparent and that the same rigorous standards should apply to all applicants for licensure as professional engineers.”
As reported by the CBC, approximately 55 per cent of the 9,500 people who applied for an engineering licence with APEGA last year were from outside Canada.
To read APEGA’s statement of January 27, click here.
To read the decision of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta v. Mihaly, 2016, ABQB 61, (CanLII) click here.