Today the report, A Human Rights Commission for the 21st Century: British Columbians talk about Human Rights was released detailing 25 recommendations to government as they re-establish the BC Human Rights Commission (dismantled in 2002 by the previous Liberal government).
The report recommends to B.C.'s Attorney General that the new commission be built on four important pillars in order to create a "strong and independent human rights system in B.C." These include: protecting the independence of the Human Rights Commission; continuing the direct-access Human Rights Tribunal, maintaining the Human Rights Clinic, which provides specialized information, advocacy and representation services; and lastly, that the Ministry of Attorney General assumes responsibility and oversight for the B.C. Human Rights Code, as well as the legislative framework necessary to protect persons from discrimination.
The independence of the commission, the purpose of the commission and how it will work with the existing Human Rights Tribunal and government, the powers of the commission, as well as its ability to call inquiries are all highlighted in the report's recommendations. These elements were also included in the BCGEU's submission to Parliamentary Secretary Ravi Kahlon during the stakeholder engagement process. As identified in the report, a core function of the commission is to provide broad education on human rights and to promote social change for British Columbians, which was also one of the key priorities identified by the union.
Two of the early priorities for the new commission will be: 1) working with Indigenous groups to develop policies and practices that honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (a recommendation also made by the BCGEU); and 2) reviewing and eliminating, where possible, unnecessary references to gender in public documents.
The union is pleased that the report also asks that a new commission review possible discrimination against foreign-earned credentials for workers. Historically, many workers coming to Canada have faced extreme difficulty getting employers, regulatory bodies and educational institutions to recognize their credentials. This is a welcome action for the new commission, as is the recommendation that it extend the time limit for filing complaints from six months to one year.
The BCGEU applauds the Parliamentary Secretary on his thorough and inclusive report, and urges that government fully implement the 25 recommendations in order to reestablish a strong and successful BC Human Rights Commission for the province.