• Hate & Racism

Updated: June 16, 2022

The Commissioner was granted intervenor status before the BC Supreme Court in this case.

An important question this case presents is whether the BC Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) has jurisdiction to hear a complaint about alleged hate speech published online or if the BCHRT cannot hear the complaint because internet content is within exclusive federal jurisdiction over internet content. It is about where alleged online hate crime victims can turn to for a hearing of their human rights complaint.

Another important question that may arise in this case is how to apply the legal test for hate speech when the speech targets people who are transgender or non-binary.

The Commissioner was granted leave to make arguments on both these issues.  

The case stems in part from a series of Facebook posts made by a Chilliwack School Board Trustee who said that allowing children to “choose to change gender is nothing short of child abuse.”1

The BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) filed a complaint with the BCHRT alleging, among other things, that the Trustee engaged in speech that is likely to expose people to hatred or contempt on the basis of their gender identity or expression and sexual orientation.

The Trustee applied to have the case dismissed by the BCHRT without a full hearing but the BCHRT declined to dismiss the complaint at that stage. The Trustee filed for judicial review of BCHRT’s decision declining to dismiss the case. The Commissioner is intervening in the judicial review. This review is scheduled to be heard in B.C. Supreme Court on June 19–20, 2023.

[1] Cathy Kearney. “Chilliwack school trustee: Allowing children to ‘change gender is nothing short of child abuse,’” CBC News, 23 October, 2017.

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About interventions

The Commissioner can apply to intervene in court cases that have the potential to make a significant impact on human rights across B.C. If the Commissioner’s request to intervene is approved by the court, intervenors provide submissions (also called legal arguments) to the judge or decision maker in a case. Intervenors do not represent either side in a case. Intervenors’ submissions must be different from the arguments being made by the parties to the case, and submissions must not advocate for either side to win or lose. Intervenors’ arguments are usually about how to interpret a narrow point of the law. Interventions can impact how the law evolves, making them an important tool in systemic work to promote and protect human rights. The Commissioner also has the right to intervene in cases at the BC Human Rights Tribunal.