British Columbia will once again have a Human Rights Commission. Newly in-power NDP Premier John Horgan made the announcement last week, returning the commission to the province after it was shuttered 15 years ago. The Liberal’s decision to close the commission had left BC as the only province in Canada without a human rights commission.
The provincial Human Rights Commission will be a proactive source of challenging human rights violations, in contrast to the current system which relies on the person involved to make an individual complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal. Having a commission again will mean the body will be party to important cases, and will be able to make significant pushes for policy change.
The commission will also have education as part of its core competency, helping to raise awareness of discrimination issues in an effort to stamp it out, as BC Premier John Horgan said in Vancouver. The attorney-general of BC, David Eby, said the commission will have “the power to do more, to educate about human rights, to prevent discrimination from taking place, and to support people in addressing systemic discrimination.”
Morgane Oger noted that preventing discrimination is far less costly than dealing with it at the tribunal after the fact. Lawyer’s fees can run up to $15,000 a day and tribunal hearings can last three to five days. Morgane Oger is a transgender-rights advocate who ran for the NDP in the BC provincial election, and has helped those going through the human rights tribunal process. She is currently involved in three human rights complaints cases, one which challenges the requirement for gender to be specified on birth certificates.
The announcement comes after the NDP won the BC provincial election by joining with the BC Greens to oust the Liberal government that had reigned for 16 years. Both Premier Horgan and Eby noted recent racial tension in the province as as reason the province needs a commission again. Eby referenced an incident last fall where racist flyers were being distributed in Richmond, BC, as an example.
Consultations with human rights advocates and groups will take place through the fall and new legislation creating the commission will be expected in 2018.
This blog post was written by a CCLA summer student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA.