The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has changed its procedure for resolving human rights disputes. As of January 1, 2012, the NS HRC has adopted a restorative justice approach that emphasizes the need to reconcile the relationship between complainants and respondents,while reducing the time it takes to resolve a dispute (which the commission notes could have taken up to two years before the recent amendments).
A hallmark of the NS HRC’s new procedure is that most disputes will now be dealt with through”Resolution Conferences”. In an overview of the new changes, the Commission summarizes four main features of these conferences:
(1) The conferences will bring parties together when a complaint is made including, at times, other members of the community;
(2) All participants will share their perspectives on the dispute;
(3) Generally, participants will be helped to create their own solution to the complaint; and
(4) If an agreement cannot be reach from the conference, information gained therein will be used to make a recommendation to the Commissioner, who can dismiss the complaint or send it to the Board of Inquiry.
Another feature of the new procedure is an increased concern for preventing systemic discrimination.When Commission staff believe that a complaint involves potential systemic discrimination, they will present the matter to an Alternative Investigation Team who will, in turn, decide upon the proper approach to investigate the complaint. Ultimately, this represents the NS HRC’s recognition of the importance of combatting systemic discrimination, along with the increased human/financial resources that may be required to complete that task.
An overview of all changes to the NS HRC’s dispute resolution procedure can be found here.