Reflections by Michael Gottheil, Chief of Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission
From: Mohammed S.
Sent: August 19, 2019
To: Michael Gottheil
Subject: I want to live please I am a human being
My name is Mohammed S. I am married and I have a little girl. I am Syrian; we are from Idlib. We ask for help from Canada. We die here in Turkey.
On August 19, 2019, I received an email from someone looking for help. As the Chief of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, this is fairly common. Sometimes it is a person who is trying to find out the status of their human rights complaint. I will forward it to the appropriate staff member at one of our regional offices and then delete the email. Sometimes it’s from a person who feels they experienced poor service from the Commission. I will follow up on the complaint and respond as appropriate. Then I will delete the email. Other times it will be from a person who, within the justice system, is called a “complex client.” Here too, I will try to follow up, ensure the inquiry is dealt with in a principled way, and with regard to public and staff safety. Then I will delete the email. In each case, I want to ensure that each person is treated with respect and is given access to equal justice as the law may provide.
But the August 19, 2019 email was different. Here was an individual making a plea for access to justice. His situation appeared dire, but I had no ability to respond or assist.
As a lawyer and an adjudicator, I am used to dealing with situations where one or both of the parties is left dissatisfied, feeling they have not been able to achieve justice. In other situations, based on my experience and knowledge, it is apparent that the law cannot provide an adequate solution or, for the individual, a sense of justice. I do my best, act with integrity, and move on.
I delete the email.
But with this email, I cannot seem to move on. It has remained in my inbox. I don’t know Mohammed S. I only know he is one of millions of displaced persons, with a family, and seeking access to justice. His existence for me is the email. If I were to delete it and send it to Trash, I would, in some small but significant way, be accepting that he is disposable.
I think I will keep the email.