Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice. She has been practicing law since 1994, with brief stints away to begin raising children. Susan has experience in many areas of law, but is most drawn to areas in which she can make a positive difference in people���s lives, including employment law. She has been a member of the Law Society of Alberta since 1994 and a member of the Law Society of British Columbia since 2015. Susan grew up in Saskatchewan. Her parents were both entrepreneurs, and her father was also a union leader who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of workers. Before moving to B.C., Susan practiced law in both Calgary and Fort McMurray, AB. Living and practicing law in Fort McMurray made a lasting impression on Susan. It was in this isolated and unique community that her interest in employment law, and Canada’s oil sands industry, took hold. In 2013, Susan moved to the Okanagan with her family, where she currently resides. photo:contributed

Kootnekoff: Human Rights code changes, Bill 50

On Nov. 27, changes to the Human Rights Code of B.C. received royal assent, giving them legal effect. These changes were introduced earlier this month, when the British Columbia provincial government introduced Bill 50. It largely adopts the recommendations of the Dec. 2017 report of Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary of Sport and Multiculturalism, “A Human Rights Commission For the 21st Century: British Columbians talk about Human Rights.”

The changes include two main features:

  • (i) extending the deadline for filing a human rights complaint from six months to twelve months; and
  • (ii) appointing a Human Rights Commissioner.

Under the changes, complaints that are filed after the previous six month deadline, and for which the Human Rights Tribunal has not yet rendered a decision, will have the new one year time limit applied to them.

In 2002, B.C. dismantled its previous human rights commission, making it the only province without one until now.

The Human Rights Commissioner will be appointed for a five year term with the potential for one renewal of the term.

The Human Rights Tribunal will remain as the body which adjudicates disputes under the Human Rights Code.

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The Commissioner will be responsible for:

  • (a) identifying, and promoting the elimination of, discrimination;
  • (b) developing resources to prevent and eliminate discrimination;
  • (c) publishing reports, making recommendations, and generally delivering public information and education about human rights to prevent discrimination;
  • (d) undertaking, directing and supporting research respecting human rights;
  • (e) consulting and cooperating with stakeholders, and establishing working groups, to promote and protect human rights;
  • (f) promoting compliance with international human rights obligations; and
  • (g) intervening in complaints and in proceedings in court.

The Commissioner will neither adjudicate nor file complaints, but may intervene in a complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal, such as to assist a complainant in a case involving broader or systemic issues.

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The Commissioner may also convene public inquiries. This might be done, for example, to determine whether a specific industry has a discriminatory bias against a protected group.

An advisory council is also being created, to advise the Commissioner on human rights issues and perform such other functions as the Commissioner may request.

The role of the Commissioner and advisory council will be reviewed by the legislature every 5 years.

Hansard debates containing further discussion of the changes can be accessed online.

These changes are an important step in safeguarding the human rights of British Columbians. If you feel that your human rights have been violated, contact the Human Rights Clinic, the Human Rights Commission, or a lawyer with experience in this area.

The content of this article is intended to provide very general thoughts and general information, not to provide legal advice. Specialist advice from a qualified legal professional should be sought about your specific circumstances. If you would like to reach us, we may be reached at 250-764-7710 or info@inspirelaw.ca. Check out our website, www.inspirelaw.ca

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