In late 2018, the BC government passed legislation re-establishing the British Columbia Human Rights Commission, which had been disbanded by the previous provincial government in 2002. The mandate of the new Commission is to promote and protect human rights in the province through inquiry and education, and will not replace the BC Human Rights Tribunal, which continues to have jurisdiction to hear and resolve complaints of discrimination under the Human Rights Code.
On November 26, 2018, the BC Legislative Assembly appointed a Special Committee to select and unanimously recommend the appointment of a new Human Rights Commissioner. On May 30, 2019, Kasari Govender, Executive Director of West Coast LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund), was appointed as Human Rights Commissioner and the newest independent officer of the BC Legislative Assembly. Commissioner Govender’s powers include:
- identifying, and promoting the elimination of, discriminatory practices, policies and programs;
- developing resources, policies and guidelines to prevent and eliminate discriminatory practices, policies and programs;
- publishing reports, making recommendations or using other means the commissioner considers appropriate to prevent or eliminate discriminatory practices, policies and programs;
- developing and delivering public information and education about human rights;
- undertaking, directing and supporting research respecting human rights;
- examining the human rights implications of any policy, program or legislation, and making recommendations respecting any policy, program or legislation that the commissioner considers may be inconsistent with the Code;
- consulting and cooperating with individuals and organizations in order to promote and protect human rights;
- establishing working groups for special assignments respecting human rights; promoting compliance with international human rights obligations; and
- intervening in complaints under section 22.1 of the Code and in any proceeding in any court.
Commissioner Govender’s five-year term will begin effective September 3, 2019. The government press release may be found here.
Our previous comments on the establishment of the Commission can be found here.