On November 1, 2018, the B.C. Government introduced the Human Rights Code Amendment Act 2018, Bill 50 (“Bill 50”). The Bill is currently in Second Reading.
Bill 50 proposes the creation of a Human Rights Commission and Advisory Board in the Province. The former Commission was dismantled in 2002, leaving the Human Rights Tribunal, which functions purely as an adjudicative body. B.C. is currently the only province not to have a human rights commission.
Key Provisions of Bill 50 and what this means for Employers
There are two key features of Bill 50 which are of particular note to employers and employees. The first is the proposal to extend the time for filing claims with the Commission. Under the current Human Rights Code, complainants have 6 months from the time of the alleged contravention to file a complaint. Bill 50 proposes to extend that limit to 12 months. For employers the increase to 12 months for filing a complaint means a longer period of uncertainty about potential liability.
The second feature of Bill 50 is the appointment of an independent Human Rights Commissioner who would report to the Legislative Assembly. The Commissioner’s mandate would be to promote and protect human rights, including by doing any of the following:
- 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 Human Rights 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 and in any proceeding in any court.
It is important to note that the Commissioner will not have adjudicative powers, which will remain the exclusive purview of the Tribunal. However, the Commissioner will have the power to intervene in Tribunal proceedings, as well as conduct its own public inquiry into a matter that would promote or protect human rights and produce a written report with recommendations.
We will continue to provide up-dates regarding the progress of Bill 50. If you have questions regarding this article, please contact your Harris lawyer.