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Introduction to Human Rights (6:I)

A. Federal and Provincial Legislation

The first step when faced with a human rights issue is to determine whether the provincial legislation, the BC Human Rights Code, RSBC 1996, c 210 (HRC), applies or whether the problem falls within federal jurisdiction under the Canadian Human Rights Act, RSC 1985, c H-6 (CHRA).

Section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867 30 & 31 Victoria, c 3 (UK), reprinted in RSC 1985, App II, No 5, lists out the bodies that fall under federal jurisdiction. If the complaint is covered by federal legislation, the matter would be handled under the CHRA by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). The limitation date for Federal jurisdiction is 1 year. If the complaint against the respondent (the party who is being alleged to have contravened the Code) is based on an action they undertook in their capacity as an agent or employee of a body that falls under federal jurisdiction, then that complaint would also be governed by federal legislation. However, a complaint involving a federally regulated employee who is alleged to have discriminated against a provincially regulated employee in a shared workspace may possibly be brought under the provincial HRC, depending on the circumstances. For more information, see the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal v. Schrenk, 2017 SCC 62 in which the court confirmed that discrimination in the employment context “may include discrimination by [the complainant’s] co-workers, even when those co-workers have a different employer”: para 3

Examples of some industries that are federally regulated and therefore fall within the federal human rights jurisdiction are:
  • Banking – but not credit unions.
  • Telecommunications (internet, television and radio) – but not call centres.
  • Transportation that crosses provincial or international boundaries (airlines, trains, moving companies, couriers).

See Section IV for more on matters under federal jurisdiction.

Section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867 lists the bodies that fall under provincial jurisdiction, including property and civil rights in the province, as well as generally all matters of a merely local or private nature in the province. If a complaint is covered under the HRC, the matter will come before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (BC HRT). Human rights violations that have taken place in BC will tend to fall under the provincial legislation. The limitation date under provincial jurisdiction was recently extended to 1 year from the previous 6-month limitation period. This change was introduced through the Human Rights Code Amendment Act 2018, which received Royal Assent on November 27, 2018. See Section III of this chapter for more on matters under provincial jurisdiction in BC.

In either case, because human rights legislation is considered to be “quasi-constitutional” in nature, the legislation must be given a liberal and purposive interpretation to advance the broad policy implications underlying it. The CHRC has a useful assessment tool that can assist in determining if an entity falls under federal jurisdiction. It can be found at This tool is not always accurate, so if an entity is not found there but you have reason to believe that it is federal, follow up with further inquiries and analysis

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on July 6, 2019.
© Copyright 2017, The Greater Vancouver Law Students' Legal Advice Society.