By Laura Track
There are several important players in BC’s human rights landscape. Because so many have “human rights” in their name, it’s easy to mix them up.
Here are four of the key players:
The BC Human Rights Tribunal
The Tribunal is like a court. It hears and decides human rights cases. Its decision-makers, called “Members”, are like judges. Members are impartial and do not advocate for either side. They hear evidence and make decisions about whether discrimination happened. If they find that discrimination did happen, they decide what the remedy should be.
People who believe they have been discriminated against can file a complaint with the Tribunal. The Tribunal screens complaints to make sure they are something the Tribunal can deal with. The Tribunal doesn’t consider how strong the case is at this stage.
Not all complaints go to a hearing. The Tribunal offers free mediation services to help the parties resolve their complaint without a hearing. Many complaints are resolved through mediation.
The Tribunal is governed by the BC Human Rights Code. The Human Rights Code is a law passed by the provincial government. The Code prohibits discrimination in BC. The Tribunal is also governed by the Administrative Tribunals Act and its Rules of Practice and Procedure.
The Tribunal’s website is: http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/
The BC Human Rights Clinic
The Clinic is like legal aid for human rights cases. It provides free legal help for people who have made a human rights complaint to the Tribunal. It is not part of the Tribunal. It is an independent organization. The Clinic is part of the Community Legal Assistance Society (“CLAS”), a non-profit legal organization that has been providing free legal help to people in BC since 1971.
The Clinic has lawyers and legal advocates who help people with their human rights complaints. People can make an appointment for a free half hour consultation with a lawyer or legal advocate at the Monday Short Service Clinic here.
People who have filed a human rights complaint with the Tribunal and had their complaint accepted can apply for free legal services here.
The Clinic also provides free and low cost educational workshops and trainings. Learn more here: https://bchrc.net/services/education-and-workshops/
The Clinic’s website is: https://www.bchrc.net/ Its office is in Vancouver, but it helps people all across BC.
BC Human Rights Commission
The provincial government has recently established the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner. BC used to have a Human Rights Commission, but it was eliminated in 2002. Since then, BC has been the only province without a human rights commission. The new Commissioner began her work in the fall of 2019.
The Commission’s job is to investigate systemic human rights issues in BC and provide education on human rights. The Commissioner is appointed by a multi-party committee of the BC Legislature for a five-year term. The Commissioner is independent from the government, and reports directly to the Legislature.
You can learn more about the Commission in this blog we wrote for the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives: https://www.policynote.ca/great-news-for-human-rights-in-bc/
The Commission’s website is https://bchumanrights.ca/
The Ministry of the Attorney General is part of the provincial government. The government decides what laws are passed, and what those laws say. The government can add, change, or repeal laws any time. The government created the Human Rights Code, and makes changes to it from time to time.
The Ministry of the Attorney General funds the Human Rights Clinic and the Human Rights Tribunal. The Commission receives its funding from the BC Legislature. All three offices are independent of government.