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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. 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, on the other hand, lists out the bodies that fall under provincial jurisdiction, which includes property and civil rights in the province as well as generally all matters of a merely local or private nature in the province. In the case that a complaint is covered under the HRC, the matter will be before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (BC HRT). Human rights matters taking place in BC will tend to fall under the provincial legislation. The limitation date shortens to 6 months if under provincial jurisdiction. See Section III 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 http://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/complaint-assessment-tool. This tool is not always accurate so if an entity is not found there but you have reason to believe that the entity


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