Canada’s longest-running human rights saga is poised to end after a quarter century of courtroom battles. Chander Grover, an Ottawa physicist and one-time manager at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), agreed this week to abandon his last remaining lawsuit against his former employer.
Grover, 69, who underwent cancer treatments last year and faces the possibility of more, told the Citizen that he doesn’t have the strength or money to continue his epic fight.
“I cannot afford to spend more,” he said Friday. “The NRC hasn’t defeated my case. What they’ve done, they’ve defeated the Canadian system: how human rights are dispensed in this country.”
A spokesman for the NRC said it “continues to hope for a successful resolution in the case.”
In a letter sent to federal lawyers earlier this week, Grover accepted a government offer not to seek legal costs against him if he dropped his case.
The federal government has spent almost $1 million on private lawyers and consultants since 2004 on the Grover case.
The only issue that remains to be resolved is timing.
Federal lawyers had asked Grover to file an official “notice of discontinuance” by Jan. 30. But Grover asked for that deadline to be extended to Feb. 20 to accommodate his medical appointments and those of his ailing wife.
He’s still waiting to hear if the government will accept his timeline.
An Indian-born scientist with a doctorate in physics earned in France, Grover won a landmark human rights case against the NRC in 1992, five years after his initial complaint.
The human rights tribunal said NRC managers thwarted his advancement, humiliated him, unfairly fired him, then tried to intimidate witnesses from testifying on his behalf.
The tribunal ordered the NRC to appoint Grover to a senior post and pay him lost wages and damages.
But that case was just the beginning of the conflict between the optics specialist and the country’s leading scientific research institution.
Grover would file four more human rights complaints against the NRC, which repeatedly tried to discipline him for insubordination.
The NRC claimed Grover interpreted every attempt to manage him as a discriminatory act.
The long-running workplace drama culminated in Grover’s dismissal for “medical incapacity” in July 2007.
Grover alleged his removal was orchestrated and unfair: he said the NRC poisoned his work environment and then fired him when he suffered the health effects of stress.
Three of Grover’s outstanding human rights complaints were dismissed in recent years because they were so dated. A complaint about his removal was also dismissed.
But a lawsuit — launched in 2002 thanks to funding from a federally-funded court challenges program — survived. It has continued to churn through the legal system for the past decade.
In the suit, Grover claimed damages for infringements of his equality rights under the Charter.
Grover, who has spent more than $250,000 on legal fees, said the government has succeeded in its strategy of running him out of time and money before the case could reach trial.
He considers it deeply unfair that the facts at the heart of the case were never heard by a judge.
“It’s impossible at my age to continue and with all of the health problems I’m facing and my wife is facing,” he said. “It’s important, but what can I do?”
Grover said his case should be used as a road map to reform Canada’s human rights system and reduce the delays that plague it.
He now plans to write a book about his experience.