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Local human rights case resolved, parties aren’t talking

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Cathy Dobson   

Three years after a Sarnia man complained about how much he is paid at Wawanosh Enterprises sheltered workshop, an undisclosed settlement has been reached.

All parties, including the Human Rights Legal Support Centre that represented Kris McCormick, agreed last week that details of the resolution wouldn’t be released.

At the heart of the dispute was McCormick’s frustration with the 46 cents per hour he received from time at the workshop. The workshops have been around for decades, providing supervision and activities for people with disabilities.

McCormick, after 10 years with the local sheltered workshop, made an application to the Human Rights Tribunal seeking $25,000 in compensation for harm done to his dignity, as well as minimum wage going forward for himself and his Wawanosh co-workers.

At the time, McCormick who has mild cerebral palsy, argued such a low wage is discriminatory and a violation of the Human Rights Code. But he said he didn’t want sheltered workshops to close.

John Hagens, executive director of Community Living Sarnia-Lambton, has previously told The Journal that McCormick and the other 70 Wawanosh workers are not employees of the sheltered workshop and do not earn a wage. However, they provide skills such as woodworking that generates income for Community Living.

The 46 cents an hour is an honorarium to encourage attendance, according to Hagens. He called the workshop a day support program and a service to the recipients and their families.

McCormick and his mother pursued their application for at least three years and a number of sporadic mediation sessions were scheduled. McCormick’s complaint was the second of its kind in Ontario.

Meanwhile, in 2015, the Ministry of Community and Social Services made a decision to phase out sheltered work activities in Ontario but gave no indication when that will happen.

In light of that decision, Community Living Sarnia-Lambton, the ministry and the McCormicks resolved the application on June 5.

None of the parties are speaking publicly about it, but in a statement the Human Rights Legal Support Centre said: “(The McCormick’s) and the Ministry of Community and Social Services are pleased with this result.”

It’s been business as usual at Wawanosh Enterprises although new applications to the workshop aren’t being accepted and numbers are shrinking.

However, the province wants a transition to alternative support programs such as volunteer work in the community or finding employers willing to hire people with disabilities.

Last month, Goodwill Industries Essex, Kent, Lambton received $150,000 from the province’s Employment and Modernization Fund to hire job coaches and assist with easing workers out of Goodwill’s sheltered workshop.

 

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