For Immediate Release | BCPIAC
Human Rights Leaders Share Common Vision for BC Human Rights Commission
VANCOUVER, B.C. – On November 17, 2017, the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC), the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office (CCPA-BC), the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS), the Poverty and Human Rights Centre, and West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (West Coast LEAF) made submissions to the government in support of a common vision for the BC Human Rights Commission (Commission).
We are calling on the government to grant the Commission a broad mandate to combat systemic discrimination throughout BC, enforce human rights protections under the Human Rights Code and under international law, and work with Indigenous communities to advance reconciliation and address the continuing legacy of colonialism. In order for the Commission to carry out its mandate, our collective recommendations include:
- Independence: The Chief Commissioner should be an officer of the Legislature to ensure that the Commission is independent from government;
- Empowerment: The Commission must be empowered to promote awareness, understanding and respect for and compliance with the BC Human Rights Code through public education, research, strategic litigation, and conducting inquiries and investigations;
- Accessibility: The Commission must be accessible to individuals and communities throughout BC, in particular those who experience ongoing marginalization.
“The Commission must work proactively to prevent discrimination,” stated CLAS human rights lawyer France Kelly. “For example, it must engage in broad education activities in order to inform and educate employers, landlords, and service-providers about how to implement policies and practices that promote human rights.”
Seth Klein, Director of CCPA-BC added that, “The Commission must be given a strong mandate to broadly advance human rights as understood and articulated in all international United Nations covenants and declarations, including the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
“The government should take this opportunity to amend the Human Rights Code to prohibit discrimination on the basis of social condition,” stated Kasari Govender, the Executive Director of West Coast LEAF. “This will ensure that human rights protections extend to those experiencing vulnerability on the basis of employment status, source or level of income, housing status (including homelessness), and level of education.”
Sarah Khan, a staff lawyer with BCPIAC, added that “It bodes well that the government has engaged in such a broad consultation about the new Commission. We are hopeful that the Commission will be independent from government and properly resourced so that it can carry out its important work.”
Kasari Govender, Executive Director, West Coast LEAF
Sarah Khan, Staff Lawyer, BCPIAC
Aleem Bharmal, Executive Director, CLAS
Seth Klein, BC Director, CCPA-BC
Gwen Brodsky, Lawyer, Poverty and Human Rights Centre