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Does The NDP Hate Persons With Disabilities?

A former NDP disability caucus co-chair has filed a human rights complaint against the party, alleging discrimination and mistreatment

A person who used to work for the Alberta New Democrats’ group for people with disabilities has made a complaint to the human rights commission, saying that the party discriminated against them.

Justin Reinke, who was a co-chair of the NDP’s disability caucus, claims that he was mistreated and unfairly fired because he spoke out against the way people were being treated.

The NDP disagrees and says that Reinke, who has a neurological disability, acted aggressively towards other members, which led to his removal.

According to documents obtained by CBC News, Reinke filed the complaint along with supporting documents just before the election.

He alleges that disabled NDP members were discriminated against and that senior party members mistreated volunteers and staff.

Reinke witnessed incidents where a member in a wheelchair was moved without consent; disabled members were mocked during policy debates.

Additionally, Reinke said the party didn’t provide necessary accessibility supports like suitable washrooms and closed captioning services in some cases.

Reinke voiced his concerns about these issues and instances of bullying internally but claimed he was ignored. Shortly after speaking up, he was removed from his position, which he believes was retaliation.

The allegations have not been proven in court, and the Alberta Human Rights Commission cannot comment on whether the complaint will be accepted and brought to a hearing due to confidentiality rules.

The Alberta Human Rights Act protects people from discrimination, including those with disabilities.

Fact Or Fiction?

The NDP released a statement saying there were six counter-complaints about Reinke’s conduct, including threats of violence against volunteers and staff.

The party conducted an investigation that found Reinke had violated their anti-harassment policy, suspending his membership. The current disability caucus also reported worrisome incidents involving Reinke.

But Reinke’s lawyer, Kathryn Marshall, claims that the allegations against her client are false and part of a campaign to intimidate and retaliate against him.

Reinke had submitted a report to the party executive in August, urging them to address the discriminatory behaviour of delegates towards disabled individuals.

But according to emails obtained by CBC News, Reinke’s exchanges with the party were very strongly worded.

“I would expect that behaviour from zoo animals. Make no mistake, these are serious violations of the human rights of disabled people,” Reinke wrote in one email. 

He also requested NDP Leader Rachel Notley’s attendance at meetings to discuss bullying allegations and discrimination, but she did not attend.

In September, Reinke was removed from his position as co-chair during an emergency meeting of the disability caucus.

Reinke is seeking $500,000 in damages and wants the party to adopt his recommendations on inclusivity. The complaint must be filed within one year of the incident, which means it will expire in two weeks.

Clare Hickie, Reinke’s disability caucus co-chair, also resigned in July, citing negative impacts on her health due to internal and external pressures.

This is not the first time concerns about the party’s conduct have been raised.

In March 2022, 15 NDP constituency presidents and regional vice presidents sent a letter outlining concerns about favouritism in the nomination process and bullying.

They called for more respect from senior party staff and an independent review of volunteer mistreatment.

In response to the letter, the NDP completed HR training for leadership staff and conducted an audit, resulting in stronger harassment policies.

Reinke is asking the party to establish an accessibility committee, improve online accessibility for party activities, include an accessibility policy in the party’s constitution, and receive an apology from party leadership.

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