BC Human Rights Commissioner Given Broad Power to Inquire into Human Rights Violations

26. August 2020 0

This post is an update to our earlier post in April regarding the creation of the BC Human Rights Commission- check it out here.

On August 4, 2020, multiple legislative changes to the Human Rights Code, RSBC 1996, c 210 (the “Code”), as well as the Human Right’s Commissioner’s Inquiry Regulation received royal assent.  These changes will come into force on September 1, 2020. Highlights of these changes include the following:

  • The Legislative Assembly or any of its committees can refer a matter to the Commissioner at any time for an inquiry and a report. The Human Rights Commissioner is tasked with promoting and protecting human rights. If the Commissioner chooses to accept the referral, the Commissioner is required to inquire into the matter and create a written report for the Legislative Assembly. If the Commissioner chooses to not accept the referral, written reasons must be provided to the Legislative Assembly.
  • If the Commissioner determines that an inquiry into a matter would serve to promote or protect human rights, the Commissioner is given the power to inquire into that matter. The inquiry may be done publicly.
  • While conducting an inquiry, the Commissioner is given broad powers to gather information, including ordering a person to attend an interview or produce records to the Commissioner. This order may be filed with the Supreme Court and has the same force and effect as if it were a judgment of the Supreme Court.
  • Once an inquiry has concluded, the Commissioner may make a written report outlining any recommendations the Commissioner determines are appropriate. If the recommendation relates to a person, the Commissioner may require that person to notify the commissioner of action taken, or action that’s intended to be taken to address the recommendation. If the person does not address the recommendation within an adequate period of time, the Commissioner may write a report about that individual’s failure. This report may be published and provided to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
  • It is an offence to willfully make a false statement to the Commissioner, obstruct, mislead, or attempt to mislead the Commissioner in the performance of duties under the Code. A person who commits this offense may face a monetary fine.  

Under these new changes, the Commissioner is given broad power to investigate human rights violations. It is hoped that these revisions will assist with identifying and ending human rights violations in BC.

This update was authored by Deanna Froese. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Contact Deanna at dfroese@harpergrey.com or anyone else listed on the authors page.