Meet the Commissioner
Her role is to lead the promotion and protection of human rights in British
Columbia through the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner.
What are human rights?
Human rights is fundamentally about human dignity. At the heart of human rights is equality. By equality I don’t mean treating everybody exactly the same, I mean treating people according to their unique needs and circumstances. We each come to the world with a complex set of identities and histories and contexts and we need to be treated according to that complexity in order to be treated equally.
Why do human rights matter to you?
I am deeply passionate and committed to working on human rights. And that is in large part due to the deep roots my family has in the social justice movements of our time. My mother spent her life and career working to combat gender-based violence. My father grew up as an Indian person under the apartheid regime in South Africa. And those experiences were very formative for me in understanding how racism and sexism impact us all. It really embedded in me this commitment to spend my life and my passion and my energies working on human rights.
Why is human rights education so important?
I’ve spent my career thinking about how to change the law and policies and how government needs to treat people. Those issues are fundamental to human rights, but what is also fundamental to human rights and to creating a culture of human rights, is really changing the hearts and minds of people and how they feel about discrimination and how they understand it, and how they understand their rights and obligations in that regard. So that is why educating people about human rights is so fundamental to this project of equality that we are working on.
Kasari Govender (she/her/hers) took office as B.C.’s first independent Human Rights Commissioner on September 3, 2019. Her role is to lead the promotion and protection of human rights in British Columbia through the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner.
Govender has devoted her life to promoting human rights, with a focus on the rights of those most marginalized. She is passionate about using her skills as a lawyer and community builder to create a more equal and just province. She has worked closely with organizations and communities promoting gender equality, Indigenous rights, children’s rights, the rights of people with disabilities and the rights of immigrant communities.
From 2008 until 2019, Govender held leadership positions at West Coast LEAF and was appointed Executive Director in 2011. She has co-authored key reports and articles and speaks widely on crucial social issues such as hate speech, access to justice, gender based violence and systemic racism. Her earlier work includes a pivotal role in establishing the Rise Women’s Legal Centre, a non-profit legal clinic in British Columbia.
Govender earned her law degree from the University of Victoria and her Master’s Degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford, UK. She has served on the board of directors for the University of Victoria, Pivot Legal Society, the Coalition for Public Legal Services, and the Society for Children and Youth. Govender has taught as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of British Columbia and as an instructor at Simon Fraser University. Her work was recognized by the Women Lawyer’s Forum which honoured her with their Award of Excellence.
In addition to her role as Human Rights Commissioner, Govender is a mother, an aunt, a daughter and a sister.
Get the Commissioner’s media kit
Want to work with us?
Are you looking for meaningful work promoting and protecting human rights in B.C.?
Please check out our exciting career opportunities.