On November 1, 2018, the B.C. Government introduced the Human Rights Code Amendment Act 2018, Bill 50. The Bill largely adopts the recommendations of the December 2017 report of Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary of Sport and Multiculturalism, which can be found here.

The Bill proposes the creation of a human rights commission and advisory board and the extension of the time period for filing complaints. A copy of Bill 50 may be found here.

Key provisions of Bill 50 are:

  • Extended time to file claims: Bill 50 increases from 6 to 12 months the time for filing a complaint.
  • Creation of Commissioner: Bill 50 creates a Human Rights Commissioner. The Commissioner is 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.

While the Commissioner will neither adjudicate nor file complaints, the Commissioner may intervene in a complaint before the Tribunal (likely, usually to assist a complainant).

The Commissioner may also convene public inquiries in order to promote human rights. We anticipate an example of such an inquiry would be to determine whether a specific industry had a discriminatory bias against a protected group.

  • Creation of an advisory council: Bill 50 creates an advisory council which will advise the Commissioner on issues respecting human rights and will perform such other functions as the Commissioner may request.
  • Periodic review: Bill 50 provides that the role of the Commissioner and advisory council will be reviewed by the legislature every 5 years.

Bill 50 is currently in first reading. As creating a human rights commission was a platform of the current government in the past election, we anticipate the Bill will become law without material amendments.

What Does This Mean For Employers

The increase to 12 months for filing a complaint means a longer period of uncertainty about potential liability.

The creation of the commission on its face will not immediately impact the employer community. However, what the Commissioner does, may. For example, the Commissioner may make inquiries regarding pay equity, indigenous participation in specific sectors, whether “social condition” (ie. an individual’s education and income) should form a protected ground, etc. Those inquiries may lead to recommendations which may in turn significantly impact employers.

It seems to the author that there is a risk that appointing an individual whose core mandate is to find discrimination and eliminate it may result in that individual labelling differences that are currently non-discriminatory as discrimination and expanding the concept of what is a human right well beyond present day norms. We will have to wait and see.