Harper government closes Human Rights Commission offices

| March 26, 2010


OTTAWA, March 25 /CNW Telbec/ - The Public Service Alliance of Canada condemns the Harper government's decision to close Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax. The union maintains that the closure of the three offices will make it substantially harder for individuals from marginalized groups to launch human rights complaints.

The three offices slated for closure received 70 per cent of all signed complaints to the CHRC in 2008.

The union, which represents CHRC employees, says this latest attack will have a particular impact on racialized people and recent immigrants. In many cases, the closures will make it much more difficult to challenge both systemic abuses and individual instances of discrimination.

For John Gordon, National President of PSAC, the closures are indicative of a strategy by the Conservative government to destabilize human rights organizations and women's groups in Canada.

"When the Conservatives took power in 2006, one of their first moves was to abolish the Court Challenges Program and close Status of Women Canada offices across the country," Gordon said. "Women's groups were denied government funding if they engaged in research or advocacy work, and equality-seeking groups lost the ability to fund Charter of Rights challenges. The government has also cancelled funding to notable NGOs such as KAIROS, and appointed ultra-conservative partisan board members to Rights & Democracy -- manufacturing a massive crisis within the organization. The closure of CHRC offices is another example of this outrageous trend."

Canadians living in British Columbia, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces will no longer have access to walk-in or telephone services at a CHRC office even remotely close to where they live. The urban centres where the CHRC offices are being closed represent a high percentage of racialized people. In fact, 60 per cent of all racialized people in Canada live in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax.

In B.C., residents will no longer have access to a human rights commission of any kind, as the B.C. Human Rights Commission was dismantled by the provincial government five years ago.

PSAC sees the closures of the CHRC offices as part of a broader trend by the Harper government toward self-regulation - something that puts both public safety and human rights into question. By severely hampering the Canadian Human Rights Commission's ability to adequately deal with complaints throughout the process, the federal government is relying on employers to voluntarily meet employment equity obligations and address discrimination. But with no mechanisms for enforcement, the CHRC's mandate will be reduced to mere suggestions.

"PSAC will fight the closures of the Canadian Human Rights Commission offices and continue to fight the Harper government's attacks on democracy and human rights," said Gordon.

For further information: Alain Cossette, PSAC Communications, (613) 293-9210

 

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Comments

As a former employee of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (1992-1998), I am very disturbed by this decision.  While I was working there, the regional offices were downsized and the intake of complaints was centralized in Ottawa, leaving the regions to do outreach and human rights promotion.  With the closing of these three offices, it appears that the Commission's mandate to promote equality rights with employers, service providers and the broader public is also being abandoned. How very sad this is.....

As a current victim of the abusive, politically-motivated nature of the Canadian Human Rights Commission via their infamous sec. 13(1) legislation contained in the Canadian Human Rights Act I find myself between a rock and a hard place respecting the actions of the Harper government on this issue.

If it weren't for sec. 13(1) being used against Canadians by special interest lobby groups here in Canada who manipulate this despicable piece of legislation to punish internet publishers such as myself for criticizing political Zionism and the actions of the state of Israel toward the Palestinian people I would tend to agree with the commentor above.

The CHRC, were it not involved in freedom of speech issues and censorship of the internet but restricted to dealing with actual cases of equal rights, true discrimination in the workplace and so on I would have no argument with the thesis put forth in the above article.

Possible it would be a more just and reasonable thing to do if the government simply scrapped sec. 13(1) instead. It would be a simple matter to do and would still keep the vast majority of employees gainfully employed.

Arthur Topham

Pub/Ed

RadicalPress.com

This is particularly grim news.

I worry over the implications of what the Government has in store for us all when they implement this sort of censure of protections for its citizens.  Such censure is very regressive in my opinion, as it provides a larger format for so many abuses over a very wide range of social, economic and political areas.

Will Unionism be considered to be Treason again?  Will the Death Penalty be reinstated (even though I can think of a few monsters that need it...there are still those being discovered innocent) and made to be 'Minimum Sentence' for select violations (like being a Union Member)?

As much as the Supreme Court has THE FINAL SAY over all matters pertaining to law, and decisions that are made by intermediaries such as the Human Rights Commissions, Labour Relations, Landlord/Tenant Board, Small Claims, etc...the Supreme Courts are less accessable to the general public due to its lack of size and its costs.  Also, to some fair degree the HRC is interwoven throughout all of the other formats due to its importance as a CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT that is there for us all. 

Without a Nation Wide VOTE on the matter, since it IS a Constitutional Issue, does the Harper Regime have the AUTHORITY to LAWFULLY close these offices...for that matter, did Campbell have the actual AUTHORITY to LAWFULLY close the offices that his Government closed?

It's one thing to make up 'laws' by Parliment Decision, a whole other thing for such 'laws' to withstand the scrutiny of an impartial body of law such as the Supreme Courts...which, by the way, should instantly and independantly challenge such intrusions into its body.

Has The Crown Representative given approval for these closures?  Whats up Senate!?  WHATS UP OPPOSITION PARTIES!!!?  Or is that a hollow title for hollow political hacks?

In a time we most need to have a body of defense against injustice and tyranny...this is very grim news indeed.

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