British Columbia’s human rights adjudicator has been overwhelmed by grievances over health measures related to COVID-19, including masking and vaccines.
Emily Ohler, chairperson of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT), said the organization was on track to reach its “triple capacity” this year, with a growing pile of complaints it has not yet reviewed.
At least 585 relate to masking and vaccines, she wrote in a statement to Global News, but that is only part of the 1,412 complaints received in the first six months of the fiscal year.
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“This will likely increase as we work on the new complaints awaiting review,” she wrote. “Each case must be considered individually.
The BCHRT is only set up to handle between 1,000 and 1,200 complaints per year, but received 2,431 between April 2020 and March 2021.
Some may be linked to legitimate discrimination, Ohler said, but many stem from a misunderstanding of what the province’s Human Rights Code protects and the role of the BCHRT.
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“We cannot help you if you think your charter rights are violated or you don’t like laws the government passes, ”Ohler (sic) wrote.
“The Coded does not protect personal choice or personal preference.
She urged members of the public who believe they have been discriminated against to consider what discrimination means under provincial law and asked them to be patient as the court struggles to deal with existing complaints.
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Laura Track, director of the human rights clinic at the Community Legal Assistance Society, said it was “simply impossible” to stay on top of calls and emails related to COVID-19 health measures . The clinic supports clients who have filed complaints with the human rights tribunal.
“Over the past two months we’ve seen an absolute deluge in the number of complaints about mandatory vaccines,” Track said.
The large increase occurred immediately after British Columbia announced its vaccine certification program in August, she said.
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The BCHRT has already dismissed a number of COVID-19-related complaints, but those that remain are still causing a backlog in the system that delays other “more legitimate” discrimination complaints, Track added.
It’s something residents should consider, she said, before filing a masking or vaccine related complaint.
“Delays in court really affect people who have been discriminated against in their jobs, housing or accessing services – those cases of sexual harassment, the cases of racial profiling that people have done, sometimes before the pandemic.” , she said.
“This is a real problem for people who seek resolution of their discrimination complaint and find that the system is totally slowed down because of these other complaints which have little or no basis. “
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BC’s Human Rights Code protects the public from discrimination based on a “protected characteristic,” Track explained, such as race, sex, gender identity or ability.
“It is really the disability that is potentially the most relevant here, but if you cannot show that connection and prove it with evidence, including medical evidence, you will not be able to effectively use the human rights system to prosecute. this issue. “
For more information on COVID-19 complaints and the role of BCHRT, visit the adjudicator’s website.
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