British Columbia's Attorney General and Minister of Justice,
Suzanne Anton, announcedon Wednesday, July 20,
2016, that the government will introduce a bill next week to amend
British Columbia'sHuman Rights
Code[Code] to include
"gender identity and gender expression" as protected
grounds. This announcement reflects a change in the
government's policy, which for years maintained that it was not
necessary to amend theCodebecause the
language was already sufficient to protect the rights of
LGBTQ2 advocates hadargued
previouslyfor the changes for a number of reasons, including
that, practically speaking, without express protection, many
transgendered people did not know that they were protected from
discrimination under theCodeand
havesupportedthe recent announcement as helping to
broaden the understanding of gender identify by incorporating
gender identity issues into the education system when children are
introduced to theCodeat
The proposed legislative amendments
will bring B.C. into step with other jurisdictions across Canada.
The federal government, forexample, recently proposed toaddgender identity or expression to the
Canadian Human Rights Act. Seven other provinces and one territory
currently have language protecting the rights of transgendered
people in their human rights legislation: Alberta, Newfoundland
& Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island,
Manitoba, Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan.
Although it appears
the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal had no difficulty recognizing and
upholding the rights of transgendered people under the
Codeas it is currently
drafted, it may be expected that the proposed legislative
amendments will contribute to providing transgendered persons with
a greater appreciation of their rights and, hopefully, increase
clarity for employers in making sense of complex issues in the
We will be sure to keep you updated
on the proposed developments.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
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