Human rights is an important topic to all Canadians. The Canadian Human Rights Act (enacted in 1977) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (enacted in 1982), as well as the more provincial statutes such as the BC Human Rights Code form the basis for human rights in Canada. However, sometimes our basic human rights are breached. Although this can be an extremely personal and overwhelming situation to be in, it’s important to know the legalities of filing human rights claims if one chooses to do so. There are specific questions that need to be answered prior to filing claims. There are time limitations for filing these claims and these time limits can differ depending on the type of claim being filed. Please read on to learn more about what human rights claims are, as well as the file time limitations to file different types of claims.

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What Is A Human Rights Complaint?

There are many different types of claims from general tort claims to employment dispute claims, and more. When it comes to human rights claims, although they may seem to overlap with other types of claims, these types of claims focus more on our basic human rights. Canadians are all protected from discrimination and harassment under a number of different statutes;

Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms (The Charter) is part of the Canadian Constitution and forms a foundation of the Canadian society. The Charter provides everyone with fundamental freedoms within Canadian society, democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights, and equality rights. However, as this document is part of the Canadian constitution, it only applies to action by government authorities so any human rights claims under the Charter must be for government action.

The Fundamental Freedoms are found in section 2 of the Charter, and are; (a) the freedom of conscience and religion, (b) the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication, (c) the freedom of peaceful assembly, and (d) the freedom of association.

The Democratic Rights are found in sections 3, 4, and 5 of the Charter.

The Mobility Rights are found in section 6 of the Charter.

The Legal Rights are found in sections 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 of the Charter.

The Equality Rights are found in section 15 of the Charter.

Canadian Human Rights Act

This statute is operative in BC, but it remains a small piece of legislation applicable only to those industries in Federal Jurisdiction. This specific Act comes into play whenever someone is employed or serviced by the federal government, by First Nations governments, or by private companies that are regulated by the federal government. There are 11 different types of grounds for discrimination under the Act.

The 11 grounds Of Discrimination Under The Canadian Human Rights Act:

  1. Race
  2. National or ethnic origin
  3. Color
  4. Religion
  5. Age
  6. Sex
  7. Sexual orientation
  8. Marital status
  9. Family status
  10. Disability
  11. Convictions for which pardons have been granted or records suspended.

The 7 Discriminatory Practices Prohibited By The Canadian Human Rights Act:

There are many different ways in which an individual can be discriminated against that fall under the 11 grounds for discrimination mentioned above. The below list are the 7 discriminatory practices that are prohibited by the Canadian Human Rights Act in relation to the grounds of discrimination.

  • Harassing someone
  • Denying someone goods, services, facilities, or accommodation
  • Providing someone with goods, services, facilities, or accommodation in a way that treats them with prejudice and differently
  • Refusing to employ or continue to employ someone, or treating them unfairly in the workplace
  • Following practices or policies that deprive people of employment opportunities
  • Paying men and women differently when they are doing work of the same value
  • Retaliating against a person who has filed a complaint or against someone who has filed the complaint for them

BC Human Rights Code

Unless you are dealing with a government agency or a federal industry, the BC Human Rights Code (The Code) is likely the statute addressing your human rights issue in BC. It covers a number of different discrimination scenarios, which are listed below. Discrimination means treating someone adversely (whether intentionally or not) in a protected circumstance with respect to the protected characteristics (race, colour, etc.) as listed below.

The 8 Discrimination Scenarios Prohibited by the BC Human Rights Code:

  1. Discriminatory Publication; because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or that group or class of persons.
  2. Discrimination in Accommodation, Service and Facility; because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or class of persons.
  3. Discrimination of Purchase of Property; because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression of that person or class of persons.
  4. Discrimination in Tenancy Premises; because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age or lawful source of income of that person or class of persons, or of any other person or class of persons.
  5. Discrimination in Employment Advertisements; as to race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age.
  6. Discrimination in Wages; by employing an employee of one sex for work at a rate of pay that is less than the rate of pay at which an employee of the other sex is employed by that employer for similar or substantially similar work.
  7. Discrimination in Employment; because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or because that person has been convicted of a criminal or summary conviction offence that is unrelated to the employment or to the intended employment of that person.
  8. Discrimination by Unions and Associations; because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or member, or because that person or member has been convicted of a criminal or summary conviction offence that is unrelated to the membership or intended membership.

Discrimination means treating someone adversely (rather intentionally or not) with respect to these protected characteristics (race, gender, etc.).

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Human Rights vs. Employment Standards

Although these seem to overlap in many ways, there are still distinct differences between an employment standards breach compared to a human rights breach. Some examples of cases that are more related to employment standards, include; unpaid time worked, unpaid holiday time, no maternity time given, etc.

[READ: Employment Standards Complaints & Times Limitations to File Claims in BC]

Questions to Ask & Answer When Looking to File a Human Rights Complaint

Is this claim part of employment, and if so is there a collective agreement in place? Most collective agreements address human rights complaints and unions can accept grievances on human rights issues. So, you may wish to review your collective agreement and speak to your union.

What industry is the person or organization that breached your human rights in? If this entity is federally regulated (e.g. telecommunications or air travel) then your claim is filed under the Canadian Human Rights Act. If this entity is not federally regulated then it is a BC Human Rights Code issue. While these issues may seem straightforward, they can be complicated and you may need legal advice to sort them out.

*NOTE: There is a possibility of pursuing both a grievance under a collective agreement AND a claim with the BC Human Rights Tribunal, but the limitation period does not stop ticking just because a person has a grievance.

Time Limitations To File Human Rights Complaints In BC

Currently, the time limitation to file a human rights complaint in BC is within 1 year of the incident. A failure to file on time may mean that your claim is not accepted for filing or that it will not be considered on the merits. This time limit applies even if you are waiting for a union or other organization to look into the matter. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have filed the claim on time.

In certain scenarios, a time limit can be extended as provided in section 22 of the BC Human Rights Code which are as follows:

BC Human Rights Code: Section 22 – Time Limit for Filing a Complaint

22 (1) A complaint must be filed within one year of the alleged contravention.
(2) If a continuing contravention is alleged in a complaint, the complaint must be filed within one year of the last alleged instance of the contravention.
(3) If a complaint is filed after the expiration of the time limit referred to in subsection (1) or (2), a member or panel may accept all or part of the complaint if the member or panel determines that
(a) it is in the public interest to accept the complaint, and
(b) no substantial prejudice will result to any person because of the delay.

A complaint made outside of the one year time limit will still be accepted if :
(1) The complaint forms part of a continuing contravention OR
(2) The Tribunal determines it is in the public interest to accept the complaint and no substantial
prejudice will result.

Working closely with one of our legal professionals will ensure that your claim gets started in time and accurately.

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The Bottom Line on Human Right Claims

Regardless of the type of claim you are contemplating you must be aware of the limitation periods to file these claims and this applies to individuals looking for protection of their human rights. If you believe your rights have been breached, then you should immediately seek the assistance of a legal professional to ensure your claim is protected and filed on time. Get your free consultation today – we are here to help.

 

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