BCHRT’s Annual Report 2021-2022 has been filed with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly and is now available to the public.
- Introduction to the Human Rights Tribunal: Mandate and Process
For people experiencing discrimination in British Columbia, the Human Rights Tribunal is the main forum for recourse. Its mandate is the just and timely resolution of discrimination complaints under the British Columbia Human Rights Code. The Code is quasi-constitutional legislation. The protections it affords are fundamental to our society.
Unlike in other provinces where a commission initially investigates and refers complaints to the Tribunal, the British Columbia Tribunal is a direct-access model, where people can file complaints directly with the Tribunal when they believe they have experienced discrimination. People who believe they have experienced discrimination can file a complaint with the Tribunal against the person or organization they believe discriminated against them. The process through which the Tribunal moves a complaint from filing to resolution is governed by the Code and by the Tribunal’s Rules of Practice and Procedure [Rules].
The first step once a complaint is filed is screening. The Tribunal screens complaints to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the matter, and whether the facts alleged could, if proven, constitute discrimination under the Code. Complaints that proceed past screening will then be sent to the Respondent, notifying them of the complaint against them and providing an opportunity to file a response to the complaint. From there, the process focuses on moving the parties toward a resolution of the dispute, either through mediation, or by making a decision after reviewing the evidence of all parties. Where the Tribunal determines that discrimination has occurred, it can order the person or organization that discriminated to pay compensation, adopt policies, undergo training, or take specific steps to remedy the discrimination, for example.
Of all complaints filed annually, approximately 75% proceed past screening. This year, however, that percentage decreased to 60% due to a high number of pandemic-related complaints being dismissed at the screening stage. For cases that proceed past screening, the Tribunal then offers mediation services. Not all parties choose to use those services. This year, the Tribunal held 433 mediations. Of these, the resolution rate was 53%.
Cases that do not resolve at mediation and continue through the process are assigned to Case Managers to guide through the system and to Tribunal Members to make preliminary decisions, preside over hearings, and make final decisions after a hearing. Complex or high-conflict cases may require ongoing management by Members. This may take the form of regular telephone case conferences and/or issuing more detailed directions to parties as they move through the steps of the process.
A case leaves the Tribunal’s system and is closed when parties withdraw it; parties resolve it (independently or through Tribunal mediation services); a Member dismisses it without a hearing on a summary process under s. 27 of the Code; or a Member hears it at a hearing and issues a final decision. Tribunal decisions are subject to applications for judicial review at the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
In total, roughly 28% of all cases closed by the Tribunal over the fiscal year closed through settlement, including where parties settled cases on their own. The overall number of cases closed this year increased significantly from last year – from 1,150 to 1,461 – due in part to the pandemic-related complaints referenced above which resulted in a higher percentage dismissed at screening.
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