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Human Rights: Change Through Collaboration

We have always fought to protect fundamental human rights and freedoms, but we never do this work alone. From coalition work and joint advocacy, to lending our perspectives in challenges against unjust legislation, to amplifying the voices of people across the country, we continue to uphold human rights and push for change through collaboration.

In 2020, our collaborative work with partner organizations, pro bono counsel, and our membership resulted in multiple victories for access to justice, human dignity, and protecting democratic rights.

Dismantling Legacies of Discrimination

As part of the Coalition on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in BC, we raised concerns about the lack of information and registration delays for First Nations women and their descendants who are newly entitled to status. In 2019, Canada made historic and welcome amendments to sexist provisions in the Indian Act, entitling up to 450,000 people to status. However, information on eligibility is not being distributed to communities, and the wait time for processing applications can take up to three years.

Along with the BC Human Rights Tribunal and other organizations, we also advocated for the addition of Indigenous identity as a ground of discrimination in the BC Human Rights Code. The Code prohibits discrimination based on race, colour, ancestry, and place of origin, which fails to capture the experiences reported by Indigenous Peoples and protect them from exercising rights unique to their Indigenous identity.

Protecting the Right to Die with Dignity

We continued the fight for end-of-life rights and won. In February 2020, the federal government introduced Bill C-7, which allows those who are intolerably suffering and incurably ill to access medical assistance in dying (MAiD) without being “near-death”. The Bill also allows for advanced requests in place of a final confirmation for those whose capacity to do so may become impaired. When the federal government considered adding other barriers in Bill C-7, we created a digital toolkit that was downloaded thousands of times by our members and supporters to help people across Canada participate in the public consultation process and make their voices heard. In March of 2021, we successfully advocated for amendments to remove the barriers, and the House of Commons passed Bill C-7.  

Human Rights in The Courts

  • In Attorney General of Quebec, et al. v. 9147-0732 Québec Inc., we secured an important victory for human dignity when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled corporations don’t have a constitutional right to freedom from cruelty. The BCCLA intervened to argue that protections against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment only apply to human beings.
  • In Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms v. Her Majesty the Queen (Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta), we are holding governments accountable by fighting Alberta’s unconstitutional Bill 10. The bill grants sweeping new powers to the provincial government to write new laws without legislative oversight.This violates our right to democratic due process and the Charter. Even during a pandemic, the Alberta government remains bound by the constitution.
  • We fought to protect benefits for young adults leaving government care in Alberta in AC and JF v. Her Majesty the Queen. The case was about an Alberta law that put young adults raised in government care at risk of losing financial and emotional benefits to help them transition to independence. We argued that the law should be suspended because it violates the rights to life, liberty, and security of the person under s. 7 of the Charter. Unfortunately, the Alberta Court of Appeal allowed the injunction appeal, which meant that young adults raised in government care were denied critical benefits. However, the majority of the Court agreed with the BCCLA that s. 7 of the Charter may protect positive socio-economic rights in a future case.