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B.C. must provide education to foster discrimination-free workplaces and services

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On Human Rights Day, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Poverty and Human Rights Centre released a report on the need for a human rights commission in British Columbia.

Yes. You read that right. British Columbia has no human rights commission. It is the only province in Canada without a publicly funded independent agency that works to prevent discrimination through public education, research, advocacy and the promotion of basic human rights.

I am taking a break from a busy day in my consulting practice to write this. I investigate and mediate human rights disputes and provide education and support to employers on human rights and responsibilities in the workplace. I'm currently investigating complaints of sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and the denial of accommodation for workers with disabilities. Sadly, these investigations reveal workplaces that are scarred by discrimination, harassment and bullying -- workplaces that are denied the benefit of their employees' full talents and energies. This is one of the many social costs of discrimination.

On a brighter note, these situations are avoidable. Through education, policy guidelines and with support in addressing problems as they arise, employers can avoid formal complaints, human rights hearings, and the business costs of workplace harassment.

This is exactly the kind of education and support that human rights commissions provide employers -- for free! Employers outside B.C. have access to helpful and current resources, guidelines, and workshops from experts in the field of human rights. Here are a just a few examples:

Employers in B.C. have to pay top dollar for consultants to provide these same services. Not all employers can afford it. Employers in B.C. should be able to access human rights education as a public service, rather than paying for it out of their own pockets. It is in the public interest to provide the education that will foster discrimination-free workplaces and services.

Thérèse Boullard is a human rights consultant, and former Director of the Human Rights Commission of the North West Territories.

This blog post is part of a series on human rights, based on the new report Strengthening Human Rights: Why British Columbia Needs a Human Rights Commission. Find other blogs in the series here.

Photo: Jordan Lewin/flickr

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