B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Statement on National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

December 6, 2019

Kasari Govender
Kasari Govender, B.C.’s first Human Rights Commissioner

Vancouver– 30 YEARS AFTER THE ÉCOLE POLYTECHNIQUE MASSACRE, THE HATEFUL IDEAS THAT LED TO THE MURDER OF 14 WOMEN ARE STILL WITH US.

In 1989, a gunman walked into an engineering classroom, ejected the men from the room, and told the women present he was ‘fighting feminism’. Then he opened fire. The violent misogyny that underpinned this attack remains all too recognizable in our communities today.

“Violence against women takes many forms in B.C., from the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women to persistently high rates of rape and domestic violence in our province. These acts of violence are not separate from the École Polytechnique massacre; they are part of a culture that threatens the safety of women and girls.” said B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender.

“For example,” she continued, “twice in the last two weeks a Canadian appeal court has had to throw out acquittals in cases that perpetuated long debunked myths about sexual assault complainants.[i] Violence committed against these women by the men in their lives was excused or diminished because of what they were wearing or, in the case of a child raped by her stepfather, because a judge decided that she had demonstrated an interest in sex. This way of thinking is abhorrent and discriminatory, and it must end.”

30 years on from this tragedy, we have an obligation to name misogyny as the force driving gender-based violence and to act in concrete ways to end violence against women and girls.

“The Calls to Justice of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry recommend education of the judiciary and the reform of laws related to sexualized and intimate partner violence.[ii] As these cases illustrate, these reforms are necessary not only for Indigenous women and girls but for the safety of all women. On this solemn day, I raise again the urgent need for improved training of judges in sexual assault law and in the dynamics of gender-based violence.” concluded the Commissioner.

Access the .pdf of the statement here.

Footnotes

[i] Sean Fine, “Interest in sex does not affect a complainant’s credibility in a sexual assault trial, Ontario Appeals Court rules,” The Globe and Mail, December 2, 2019.  https://tgam.ca/2RnEY0B

[ii] Call to Justice 5.3 and 10.1 https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/indigenous-mmiwg-reaction-britishcolumbia-1.5160105

B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Applauds Initial Steps to Implement UNDRIP in B.C.

October 24, 2019

Commissioner Kasari Govender is joined by Premier John Horgan and Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond at the BC Legislature to mark the introduction of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

VANCOUVER – Today, the Province of British Columbia introduced legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“The legislation introduced today is an important moment in B.C.’s journey of reconciliation,” said Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender. “The implementation of UNDRIP is an opportunity to reject the colonial relationships of the past in favour of an approach based on equality and respect for human rights. I join many others across the province and across Canada in applauding the work done by the First Nations Leadership Council and the Province of B.C. to co-develop this legislation.”

The legislation sets out a process to align B.C. laws with UNDRIP and provides a provincial legislative framework for recognizing the constitutional and human rights of Indigenous peoples. It requires that the Province develop an action plan and mechanisms for reporting on progress.

The Office of the Human Rights Commissioner for B.C.is responsible for promoting compliance with international human rights obligations, including monitoring and making recommendations on how the Human Rights Code can be interpreted in view of the Province’s commitment to UNDRIP.

“This legislation is only the first step towards the full implementation of UNDRIP. Decolonizing takes courage. Success depends on the concrete actions that will follow to bring B.C. laws into alignment with the U.N. Declaration,” said Commissioner Govender. “My office will be closely monitoring the Province’s action plan in the weeks and months to come, and we will be looking to ensure that the courage shown today by the Province in partnership with First Nations is followed through with a robust action plan.”

Media Contact: media@bchumanrights.ca; cell: 250-216-4534

Download media statement PDF

B.C.’s New Human Rights Commissioner takes Oath of Office

September 3, 2019

New Human Rights Commissioner
Kasari Govender was sworn in by Acting Clerk Kate Lloyd-Ryan as B.C.’s new human rights commissioner at the Legislature.

Victoria, B.C. – Kasari Govender was sworn in by Acting Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd as B.C.’s new human rights commissioner at the Legislature today. The Office of the Human Rights Commissioner will be headquartered in Vancouver. It is Canada’s first fully independent human rights commission, and reports directly to the legislative assembly.

The mandate of the Office includes educating British Columbians on human rights, as well as examining and addressing issues of systemic discrimination.

Media Contact: media@bchumanrights.ca; cell: 250-216-4534