By Shirley Bond
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
March 26, 2013
VICTORIA - Human rights movements around the globe have been pivotal in supporting open, democratic societies where individuals can lead safe, happy and fulfilled lives.
The movements have been critical in building societies, including British Columbia's, that aspire to eliminate discrimination against individuals because of their race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disabilities, sex, sexual orientation or political belief. Human rights movements have opened employment doors, helped people put roofs over their heads, and curbed exposure to hateful comments and ideas.
Ten years ago, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal as we now know it was created and the new direct access model - the first of its kind in Canada - strengthened our dispute resolution mechanisms for ensuring that the rights of individuals are protected. Under the direct access model, human rights complaints go directly to the tribunal, which handles the complaint from start to finish. This process is efficient and accountable.
When reflecting on the services offered by the Human Rights Tribunal, it's important to understand how it works and what it represents. The tribunal is an independent, quasi-judicial body responsible for screening, mediating and adjudicating human rights complaints in a manner consistent with the purposes as stated in the Human Rights Code:
- To foster a society in British Columbia in which there are no impediments to full and free participation in the economic, social, political and cultural life of British Columbia.
- To promote a climate of understanding and mutual respect where all are equal in dignity and rights.
- To prevent discrimination prohibited by the code.
- To identify and eliminate persistent patterns of inequality associated with discrimination prohibited by the code.
- To provide a means of redress for those persons who are discriminated against contrary to the code.
Its commitment and innovation in providing services to British Columbians is reflected in the number of cases the Human Rights Tribunal addresses annually. In 2011-12, it received almost 1,100 new cases and responded to more than 10,000 telephone and email enquiries. The most common types of human rights complaints concerned discrimination on the basis of disability (35 per cent), ethnicity (26 per cent), sex and sexual harassment (14 per cent), family and marital status (nine per cent) and age (six per cent).
The tribunal's commitment to continuous improvement helps to make services to British Columbian's even better. In recent years, the tribunal has streamlined the way complaints are resolved and results of this reform have been remarkable:
- The screening process is often completed within 60 days of filing.
- Seventy-four per cent of cases referred to mediation are successfully resolved.
- Effective use of preliminary dispute resolution and settlement services has resulted in only four per cent of the complaints referred to oral hearings.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the direct access model implemented through changes to the Human Rights Code that were brought into force by the B.C. government on March 31, 2003, I ask all British Columbians to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in an open and tolerant society, and how important it remains for citizens around the globe to keep challenging the status quo in jurisdictions that don't have effective human rights protection.
Ministry of Justice