All complaints are filed directly with the Human Rights Tribunal. The BC Human Rights Tribunal is an independent, quasi-judicial body, responsible for accepting, screening, mediating and adjudicating human rights complaints. The complaint process provides many opportunities to settle the dispute, including mediation, early intervention by tribunal staff and a flexible approach designed to allow the parties to access a procedure that best suits their needs.
The tribunal is responsible for dealing with human rights complaints made under the Human Rights Code (HRC). An individual can make a complaint if he or she feels that someone has discriminated against him or her in a manner prohibited by the code.
The tribunal’s job is to resolve human rights complaints in a way that is fair to both the person who made the complaint and the person against whom the complaint was made. This is achieved by providing multiple opportunities for the exchange of information, negotiation and settlement. Ultimately, if the parties cannot resolve the complaint, the tribunal will adjudicate the matter and issue a binding decision.
The tribunal operates much like a court but is less formal and more flexible. Nevertheless, tribunal decisions and settlements reached with the assistance of tribunal staff can be enforced through the courts.
It is important to note that the tribunal can only deal with human rights complaints that arise in British Columbia and that are covered by the HRC. Remember that the code only prohibits discrimination based on the proscribed grounds. The tribunal cannot deal with any other type of discrimination. However, it will also deal with complaints concerning retaliation against an individual who made or intended to make a human rights complaint, was named in a complaint, or assisted someone else with a complaint.
MAKING A COMPLAINT
Complainants initiate the process by filing a completed complaint form with the tribunal within one year of the incident. If the incident occurred more than one year before the filing of the complaint, the complainant may still file a complaint, but it is up to the tribunal whether to accept the complaint outside the time limit.
Both the tribunal and the BC Human Rights Coalition provide a great deal of valuable information concerning the Human Rights complaint process. For more information about the complaint process, view the Tribunal Guides and Information Sheets.
On November 27, 2018, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2018, received Royal Assent. The Act introduced several amendments, including initiating the process of re-establishing the British Columbia Human Rights Commission (BCHRC).
The following amendments bear on the complaints process, and are currently in force as a result of the Act:
- The office of the Human Rights Commissioner has been created and given powers;
- The Commissioner has the right to intervene in a complaint.
Other amendments that are not yet in force include the following:
- Responsibility for special programs will shift to the Commissioner;
- The Commissioner will have the power to initiate inquiries;
- The Commissioner will have the power to obtain copies of complaints and responses;
- The Legislative Assembly will be able to refer a matter to the Commissioner.
Employers should be aware of when the BCHRC becomes fully operational, since re-establishment of the BCHRC will affect the process of resolving a human rights complaint in BC. For updates from the BC Human Rights Tribunal, refer here: http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/tribunal/news/index.htm.
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Updated information provided by Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP. The information provided in this article is necessarily of a general nature and must not be regarded as legal advice. For more information about Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, please visit mathewsdinsdale.com.