Every person in Canada has human basic rights, and in British Columbia, these rights are defined in the Human Rights Code.
The purpose of the code is to promote full and free participation in all aspects of life, to promote equality in both dignity and rights, to prevent discrimination, to identify and eliminate discrimination, and to provide remedies for those who have been discriminated against.
The code prohibits discrimination on a number of grounds, including race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, political belief, age, sex, marital status, physical or mental disability, family status, sexual orientation, or criminal conviction.
The code does allow for some exceptions, for example: certain rental accommodations are allowed to restrict its tenants to 55-plus years of age.
One successful human rights case was Morris vs. ACL Services.
Mr. Morris had been employed for approximately seven years when he took time off work due to a diagnosis of anxiety and depression. He had applied for short-term disability (STD) benefits and despite two appeals, his application was denied. He then applied for long-term disability (LTD) benefits, which were also initially denied.
Mr. Morris appealed the LTD decision and his employment was terminated before the appeal decision was made. At the BC Human Rights Tribunal hearing, Mr. Morris alleged his termination was a result of discrimination because of his disability. The tribunal ultimately found the employer to have acted prematurely in its decision to terminate Mr. Morris’ employment. Mr. Morris was awarded $10,000 for compensation for injury to his dignity, feelings and self-respect, as well as reimbursement for the medical expenses incurred by him.
If you, or someone you know, have been the victim of discrimination, a complaint must be filed with the tribunal, in most cases within six months of the alleged discrimination occurring. If six months has passed, a complaint may still be accepted by the tribunal under certain circumstances.
Once a complaint has been received, the tribunal can either dismiss the complaint or hear it. If your complaint is dismissed, it may not be because it holds no merit, but rather the tribunal may believe that there is a better forum for the hearing of your complaint (for example, the courts), or the complaint occurred outside of B.C.
If you are not sure if you have a valid human rights complaint, contact a lawyer to discuss your options. But remember, there are always limitations periods in play when it comes to human rights concerns.
For more information on Human Rights complaints and the process, visit: bchrt.gov.bc.ca or talk to a lawyer.
Sheri Yakashiro is an associate lawyer with RDM Lawyers in Abbotsford and Mission. Sheri practices in the areas of labour and employment law, personal injury law, family law and civil litigation. Comments or questions about this article can be sent to email@example.com.