New report says B.C. should have a human rights commission

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      The lack of a human rights commission in B.C. has led to a “gaping hole” in the province’s system of human rights protection, according to a new report published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Poverty and Human Rights Centre.

      In their report Strengthening Human Rights, authors Shelagh Day and Gwen Brodsky note that B.C. is the only province in the country that doesn’t have a human rights commission to do preventive work, including educating the public about their rights.

      “Part of the difficulty we have in British Columbia now is that with only a Human Rights Tribunal, the responsibility rests on the shoulders of individual people to take complaints forward and to try to resolve issues of discrimination,” Day said in a phone interview.

      The report outlines the roles that a human rights commission could have in B.C., including undertaking inquiries or research on broad systemic issues, educating the public about human rights, developing guidelines and policies, and addressing concerns about system discrimination.

      Day said the people who suffer discrimination in the province are “the most marginalized people in our community”.

      “It’s hardest for them to carry a complaint forward, so we have no public body that can look at the systemic issues of discrimination in the province and find solutions—and find solutions for discrimination that are bigger and more sustainable than relying on individuals to solve the discrimination problems we have one by one,” said Day.

      Some of the issues that she believes a B.C. commission could take a look at include temporary foreign workers in the tree planting and food service industries.

      “We’ve had media reports and in fact some complaints come forward that have to do with conditions that those workers experience, including racial and sexual harassment, being required to live in accommodation that’s provided by the employer that is overcrowded, inadequate, poor food, very poor conditions,” said Day.

      “A commission could help us find out how big a problem that is in the province, where it’s happening, what the extent of it is, and what are the steps that can be taken to make sure that that kind of discrimination isn’t happening.”

      She said a commission could also help to issue guidelines for cities related to homelessness.

      “The commission in Ontario has actually engaged in trying to help the municipality address the problems of homelessness, but ensure that they’re not discriminating against the homeless people in the process of doing it,” said Day. 

      “So what are those procedures municipalities should be following to ensure that they’re not discriminating against homeless people when they’re trying to deal with something like a tent city—and those are extremely important things.” 

      The report issues a series of recommendations, including a call for the provincial government to amend B.C.’s Human Rights Code to establish a new independent human rights commission. B.C.’s commission was eliminated in 2002.

      According to Brodsky, a commission could work well “in tandem” with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

      “To work in tandem with a tribunal to get at the systemic issues, we sometimes need a more flexible and imaginative process than the litigation process affords,” she said.

      Brodsky noted B.C.’s representative for children and youth has raised the profile of issues related to children at risk.

      “It is because of the public mandate and public support that that office receives that it is able to do such good work, and we’re going for something analogous in the way of an independent human rights commission to address human rights issues,” she said.

      In Brodsky’s view, a commission is an “essential piece of institutional machinery” in B.C.’s human rights system.

      “Human rights can’t just be words on paper,” she stated. “They aren’t self-executing. B.C. has a human rights code, so it has the words, but giving real effect to human rights requires that we have a robust human rights system.”

      Comments

      6 Comments

      Shill Spotter

      Dec 10, 2014 at 8:27pm

      The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Poverty and Human Rights Centre are hardly neutral in their research or recommendations. The BC Human Rights Tribunal is a sinecure that acts as a kangaroo court with a definite ideological bias: the kind of "impartial" body that invariably denys the rights of those who's ideology is contrary to the tribunal members.

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      Martin Dunphy

      Dec 10, 2014 at 8:36pm

      shill:

      Thanks for the post. The trouble is, though, without these institutions, the world would be full of people like you doing whatever they wanted.

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      Leichster

      Dec 10, 2014 at 9:48pm

      As opposed to what, Martin? A world full of social Marxist shills doing what they want, enforced by Soviet style kangaroo courts, like what we have now for instance?

      I'd rather live in a society of laws which follow due process, thank you.

      Shelagh

      Dec 11, 2014 at 12:11pm

      wants her old job back. If what happened to a complainant isn't a crime, it's just another lesson from the school of hard knocks. The idea that some government-appointed "commission" will do anything but feather their own nests is laughable. If you expect the government to defend your rights, you're screwed. They are the greatest threat to your rights.

      Beatnuck

      Dec 11, 2014 at 2:14pm

      We’ve had media reports and in fact some complaints come forward that have to do with conditions that those [foreign] workers experience, including racial and sexual harassment, being required to live in accommodation that’s provided by the employer that is overcrowded, inadequate, poor food, very poor conditions,” said Day.

      The problem is that, if corporations were required to treat temporary foreign workers the same as Canadian workers, and pay them the same benefits and wages, THERE WOULDN'T BE ANY FOREIGN WORKERS IN BC!

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      RUK

      Dec 11, 2014 at 2:17pm

      How about y'all read some Human Rights Tribunal decisions. It's not a kangaroo court (decision in advance), nor is it a commission (it is empowered to issue penalties and costs), nor is it Marxist (an analysis of the dialectics of the capitalist system is nowhere in evidence), nor is it ideological (unless you believe that bodies which follow published rules and legislation is ideological - you probably do), nor is being harassed or discriminated against something that is just part of the school of hard knocks, that is, to be tolerated.

      tl;dr - you're derps

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