CHRA Review Panel About to Submit Report
Posted 2009-12-09 by Rachel Cox | Jurisfemme Publications – Volume 19, No. 2, Winter 2000
After a year of work, the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) Review Panel, headed by former Supreme Court Judge Gérald Laforest, is about to submit its report to the Minister of Justice.
Working in coalition with Action travail des femmes and the Table féministe francophone de concertation provinciale de l’Ontario, NAWL played a role in the cross-Canada consultation process. NAWL also submitted a comprehensive brief to the Panel.
The NAWL brief addresses issues of procedure, such as speedier complaint processing and guaranteed access to the Canada Human Rights Tribunal, as well as substantive changes to the Act. Currently the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s marked reluctance to adjudicate complaints results in a process that is often long and drawn out. Delays and the complexity of the process whittle away at complainants’ rightful expectations to obtain a remedy for the violation of their rights.
Drawing on a series of case studies, NAWL’s brief illustrates how the Act itself is in fact a source of discrimination. For example, more than 50 women Fujian Chinese refugee claimants detained by Immigration Officials suffered human rights violations in a B.C. prison. Some were separated from their children who had been placed in foster homes. However, no recourse is available to these women, as the Act states that the Commission may not deal with a complaint unless the “victim” was lawfully present in Canada.
Discriminatory practices carried out pursuant to the Indian Act are also excluded from the protection of the Act, closing the door on Indian women who might wish to affirm their right to equality within their communities. There is no rationale to justify this denial of justice to Indian women.
Women whose employers are covered by the Employment Equity Act are also afforded less or no protection by the Human Rights Act. For example, even when a complaint of systemic discrimination in the workplace is substantiated before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the Tribunal does not have the power to order the employer to adopt policies designed to ensure that women (or other designated groups) achieve increased representation in the workforce, nor to adopt goals and timetables for achieving that representation. The Act simply does away with these women’s individual human rights.
The Review Panel was mandated to submit a report to the Minister of Justice on April 1, 2000. In the coming months, NAWL will be following the CHRA reform process closely. A copy of NAWL's brief can be ordered through the national office.
Rachel Cox is a community organizer with ‘Action travail des femmes” in Montreal, Quebec. She worked with NAWL for the preparation of the Human Rights Brief for the CHRA Review Panel.