Part IV – The Neverending Story: The Code and the Goblet of Human Rights
Like all great tetralogies (a Greek word defined as a compound work composed of four distinct works – Google it), we let the success of our initial trilogy go to our heads (read Part I: Employment Standards Act, Part II: Labour Relations Code, and Part III: Canada Labour Code). The resulting inflated egos, creative differences, unsuccessful side projects and grossly inflated budget led to this, the fourth edition in our very popular legislative update series, arriving several months behind schedule. With apologies, we present the fourth and final edition of this tetralogy.
Part IV – Bill 50 – Human Rights Code Amendment Act
The human rights landscape in British Columbia changed with the introduction of Bill 50, known as the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, which received Royal Assent on November 27, 2018. Bill 50 was largely crafted based on the report prepared by Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism, who conducted consultations throughout British Columbia in 2017.
Bill 50 has resulted in two significant changes for employers and employees in BC:
- The extension of the limitation period to file a complaint under the Human Rights Code (the “Code”) from 6 months to 12 months; and
- The creation of the BC Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”).
This is not the first iteration of a Commission in British Columbia. The Commission previously operated from 1973 to 1984 and again from 1997 to 2002.
While details concerning how the Commission will operate remain limited, Bill 50 does outline the role of the Commissioner of the new Commission, which includes oversight and responsibility for:
— identifying and promoting the elimination of discriminatory practices, policies and programs;
— developing and delivering information and education to the public regarding human rights;
— conducting research into human rights;
— examining the human rights implications of any policy, program or legislation that may be inconsistent with the Code, as well as making recommendations regarding the same;
— promoting compliance with international human rights obligations; and
— intervening in complaints filed with the BC Human Rights Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) or with the courts.
Finally, while the Commissioner may not file a complaint with the Tribunal, they may assist an individual or group with their complaint.
On September 3, 2019, this new era of the Commission unofficially began when lawyer Kasari Govender was sworn in as its Commissioner. While news concerning the Commission has been hard to come by, on January 10, 2020, the Commissioner spoke out publically on the subject of pipelines and First Nation consultation, urging Canada to comply with its obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Convention to End Racial Discrimination. If you are a regular reader of our blog, you will know that consultation is an issue we feel strongly about. These comments highlight the fact that a critical piece of the Commissioner’s role will be engaging in advocacy in areas deemed significant to British Columbians.