Opening of BC Human Rights Commission

In November 2018, amendments to the Human Rights Code, RSBC 1996, c 210 (the “Code”)came into force, allowing for the creation of the Human Rights Commission in BC (the “Commission”). Although BC previously had a Human Rights Commission, it was done away with in 2002, leaving a void in the BC human rights landscape.

The Commissioner, Kasari Govender, began her work in the fall of 2019. The Commission will be open to the public shortly, in the spring of 2020. At the time of writing, it is not yet open to the public, although they may be contacted by email.

Pursuant to the Code, it is the Commissioner’s responsibility to promote and protect human rights. Section 47.12(1) of the Code includes multiple examples of how the Commissioner may fulfill this responsibility including:

  • identifying, and promoting the elimination of, discriminatory practices, policies and programs;
  • developing resources, policies and guidelines to prevent and eliminate discriminatory practices, policies and programs;
  • publishing reports, making recommendations or using other means the commissioner considers appropriate to prevent or eliminate discriminatory practices, policies and programs; 
  • developing and delivering public information and education about human rights; 
  • examining the human rights implications of any policy, program or legislation, and making recommendations respecting any policy, program or legislation that the commissioner considers may be inconsistent with this Code; and 
  • promoting compliance with international human rights obligations.

BC currently has a Human Rights Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) as well as a Human Rights Clinic (the “Clinic”). Although the Tribunal, Clinic, and Commission have similar titles, their functions are quite different. The Commissioner’s function has a partially proactive focus as it is aimed at taking steps to prevent discrimination before it occurs as well as providing recommendations on how to end human rights violations. Following a human rights violation, an individual can file a complaint with the Tribunal, who may then adjudicate the complaint. The purpose of the Clinic is to assist individuals who wish to file a complaint with the Tribunal, and gives free legal advice to assist with the complaint process.

The re-establishment of the Human Rights Commission is a step forward for human rights in British Columbia as it is hoped that it will provide additional insight into human rights violations, provide recommendations on how to end violations, and proactively address issues within the province. This post was authored by Deanna Froese. Please don’t hesitate to contact her at dfroese@harpergrey.com or anyone else listed on the authors page.