Hate & racism

Updated: September 20, 2021

Vancouver B.C. – B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner has applied to intervene in a legal case at the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

The Commissioner is asking the Supreme Court of British Columbia to allow her to intervene in Neufeld v. British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) on behalf of Chilliwack Teachers’ Association. The Commissioner seeks to make arguments on the BC Human Rights Tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear complaints involving allegations of discriminatory publications that are published on the internet. She also seeks to make submissions on the approach to assessing allegations of hate speech that targets people based on their gender identity or expression. This is the second such application the Commissioner has filed since her appointment in September 2019.

The Commissioner’s mandate to promote and protect human rights in B.C. includes intervening in legal cases with the potential to protect human rights at the systemic level. Commissioner Govender believes Neufeld v. BCTF OBO Chilliwack Teachers’ Association is a case where her submissions can assist the court in making this kind of impact.

“This case will clarify whether allegations of online hate speech (and other discriminatory speech published on the internet) can be adjudicated by B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal or whether it can only be addressed at the federal level. This is a critical issue given how integral the internet is to modern life and how profoundly concerning it has been to see the proliferation of hate speech online,” Commissioner Govender said.

Neufeld v. BCTF OBO Chilliwack Teachers’ Association is a judicial review of a decision of the Human Rights Tribunal. B.C.’s Supreme Court will examine the Human Rights Tribunal’s decision declining to dismiss BCTF’s complaint in its entirety at a preliminary stage of the proceeding. The original complaint to the Tribunal alleges, amongst other things, that the respondent engaged in speech, which was posted on social media and elsewhere, that is likely to expose people to hatred or contempt on the basis of their gender identity or expression and sexual orientation.

The Commissioner’s application for leave to intervene will be heard in B.C.’s Supreme Court on Oct. 15, 2021. Dates for the judicial review have not yet been set.

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Media contact

Commissioner Govender is not available for interviews. If you are a member of the media and require further assistance please contact Elaine O’Connor, Acting Director, Communications, at Elaine.OConnor@bchumanrights.ca or 1-250-216-4534.

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About BCOHRC

BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner exists to address the root causes of inequality, discrimination and injustice in B.C. by shifting laws, policies, practices and cultures. We do this work through education, research, advocacy, inquiry and monitoring. Learn more at: bchumanrights.ca

About the Commissioner

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, started her five-year term on Sept. 3, 2019. Since then, our Office has been working swiftly to build a strong team, to listen deeply to the concerns of British Columbians, to deliver education materials on our rights and responsibilities, to issue policy guidance to protect marginalized communities and to lay a human rights-based foundation for our work. As an independent officer of the Legislature, the Commissioner is uniquely positioned to ensure human rights in B.C. are protected, respected and advanced on a systemic level throughout our society.

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