80 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 1 JANUARY 2019
Human Rights”. Through the engagement, British Columbians were clear
that they want a modern, responsive and independent Human Rights Commission
that effectively addresses modern-day issues and is structured for
success. By re-establishing a commission that focuses on promoting human
rights education and preventing systemic discrimination, we are creating a
more inclusive and just society for all British Columbians. The amendments
to the Human Rights Code are a commitment by our government to
choose a side in the fight for equality and human rights. We are standing on
the side of fair treatment, equal opportunity and removing barriers for all
British Columbians, regardless of who they are, where they came from, how
they pray or whom they love.
Until now, human rights complaints have been addressed solely by the
Human Rights Tribunal. While the tribunal is effective at mediating and
adjudicating individual and group discrimination complaints, and organizations
like the Community Legal Assistance Society and the BC Human
Rights Clinic continue to provide important educational and clinic services,
our province is in dire need of an independent body that is focused solely
on promoting and protecting human rights.
Education, information and awareness are key components in addressing
and preventing human rights abuses and discrimination, and for building
healthy and respectful relationships across our society. That means
confronting issues at work and in our schools, recreation centres, hospitals
and public transportation systems—wherever British Columbians interact.
For a human rights commission to be effective, it must have public trust.
To earn that trust, we have adopted Parliamentary Secretary Kahlon’s recommendation
to establish a human rights advisory council to represent the
province’s diverse regions and populations. An advisory council, which will
serve as a sounding board to the commissioner, will ensure the Office of the
Human Rights Commissioner can embody that diversity of perspectives,
and will put the commissioner in a strong position to engage with British
Columbians and lead reforms related to the expansion of protected grounds
in the B.C. Human Rights Code.
The move to re-establish a human rights commission here in B.C. comes
not a moment too soon. Despite many efforts to protect human rights across
B.C., Canada and North America, a rising tide of hate demands government,
and people across our province, act to protect the welcoming attitude and
diversity that are hallmarks of our province and our prosperity.
I am grateful to everyone who advocated for many years that our
province take this much-needed step toward educating and inspiring British
Columbians on the importance of standing up for human rights, and I look
forward to welcoming the province’s new commissioner later this year.