The BC Humanist Association welcomes the 25 recommendations made in a report on creating a new BC Human Rights Commission.
Parliamentary Secretary Ravi Kahlon presented his report to the Attorney General for the new Commission on December 10, Human Rights Day. The report follows online and in person consultations, including submissions from over 500 individuals and almost 70 organizations. The BC Humanist Association attended in person consultations and submitted a written response. We also collected over 1000 signatures calling for "nonreligion" to be added as a protected class in the BC Human Rights Code.
The general consensus is that the new commission must be modern, efficient and effective. It should educate the public about human rights, promote equality, awareness and respect, and address systemic abuse. It should also complement not replace the current work of the BC Human Rights Tribunal and Human Rights Clinic. I have heard British Columbians say that B.C. should aspire to be the human rights leader by adopting innovative practices to ensure that individuals, no matter where they live, have equal access to justice and to the supports they need to turn human rights ideals into reality.
The report, A Human Rights Commission for the 21st Century: British Columbians talk about Human Rights, calls for a single appointed Commissioner, supported by staff, and advisory council and community partnerships. The Commission would be independent of the government and report directly to the Legislature. The Commission would promote and advocate for human rights, and hold governments to account through research, investigation, policy development and recommendation functions.
Many of these recommendations reflect the calls made by the BCHA and other human rights charities, such as the 2014 report Strengthening Human Rights: Why British Columbia needs a Human Rights Commission.
The Government's report recommends the first priorities for a Commission to be tackling issues facing indigenous peoples, ID requirements around gender identity and restrictions for foreign credentials.
Finally, the report references our calls for nonreligion to be made a protected ground and includes a recommendation to look at expanding the Code to include social condition as a grounds of discrimination. In the selection of comments highlighting "religious discrimination" in BC, the report quotes two nonreligious people challenging religious privilege.
BC's previous Human Rights Commission was disbanded in 2002, making it the only province without a Commission. The government is expected to table legislation in early 2018 to create the new Commission.
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