Who Are We?
The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission was established in 1971 when the Human Rights Code came into effect. In 2010, the Code was replaced by a new Human Rights Act. Currently, its mandate is:
- Receiving, recording and investigating individuals' written complaints that allege violation of the Human Rights Act
- Promotion of the Human Rights Act
- Education and research designed to eliminate discriminatory conduct
- Advising and helping individuals, groups, organizations and governments on matters related to human rights.
There are a lot of people who work hard to make sure the Commission fulfills its roles. The Commission consists of:
- Investigators – who gather information when an individual files a complaint alleging a violation of the Act
- Executive Director – who directs the operation of the Commission as a whole; oversees the complaint procedure, educational programming and research done by the Commission; and directs any other projects or programs recommended by the Commission
- Lawyers – who represent the Commission before Boards of Inquiry and the courts and who do legal research on human rights issues
- Administrative Staff – who run the Commission office, organize Commission meetings and Board of Inquiry hearings and coordinate communication between all members of the Commission team. They are often the first point of contact for individuals who contact the Commission with questions or who wish to file human rights complaints
- Commissioners – who determine whether or not to send a complaint to the Board of Inquiry for a decision
- Board of Inquiry – an Adjudicator is appointed to conduct a hearing and give a decision about whether or not the Act was violated
The New Human Rights Act, 2010
The Human Rights Commission is pleased to announce that the new Human Rights Act, after being passed by the House of Assembly, was proclaimed by the Lieutenant Governor on June 25th, 2010. The Human Rights Act, 2010 introduced by the Honourable Felix Collins, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, enhances protections offered by the old Human Rights Code and is also designed to increase the efficiency of the complaints process.
Highlights of the Human Rights Act, 2010 include:
- Provides a definition of disability consistent with other jurisdictions in Canada
- Reinserts a modernized preamble which gives a statement of the fundamental principles of the legislation
- Establishes disfigurement as prohibited in its own right
- Prohibits discrimination in the making of a contract
- Removes the age restriction of 19 years for employees to file complaints
- Clarifies that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is prohibited
- Prohibits discrimination on the basis of criminal conviction by an employer when it is unrelated to the employment
- Broadens the definition of marital status
- Provides the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, Trial Division with the ability to review the dismissal of complaint(s) by the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission
- Provides a new appointment process for commissioners and adjudicators.
Significant changes have also occurred to increase efficiency within the Human Rights Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador. In order to move complaints through the process more expeditiously, the Human Rights Act, 2010 will allow for regulations to be created which specify timelines for documentation related to the complaints process. In addition, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission will now have expanded powers, including: the authority to dismiss a complaint if it is trivial, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith; where the substance of the complaint has been appropriately dealt with in another proceeding or, if it does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Act, 2010.
For more information on the new Human Rights Act, 2010, please visit the Commission's website: http://www.justice.gov.nl.ca/hrc/act/index.html
New Commission Website
In October 2010, the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission launched its new website. It includes information on how to make a complaint to the Commission; information on the new Human Rights Act, 2010 and information and resources on issues of interest pertaining to human rights in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Please visit our website to learn more: http://www.justice.gov.nl.ca/hrc
Education and Advertising
In Fall 2010 and Spring 2011, the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission ran several radio, television, and print ads to raise awareness of the Commission and human rights issues in general. This constituted a major undertaking by the Commission and was featured on radio stations, newspapers, and television stations across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Commission also developed posters that will be distributed across the province. This is part of the Commission's mandate to provide education and awareness of human rights issues in the province.
National Conference a Success!
The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission was honored to host the annual conference for the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) in St. John's, Newfoundland from June 20th- 23rd, 2010. Conference attendees included members of human rights agencies from the provinces, territories and the federal commission, as well as members of the legal community and the general public with an interest in human rights issues. The conference, titled, "The Edge of Rights Awareness: Compliance and Adherence in the 21st Century" provided delegates the opportunity to discuss and reflect upon contemporary human rights issues with an emphasis on issues impacting human rights on an international scale. In addition to plenary sessions, the delegates were also able to choose from a number of small group sessions covering a wide variety of topics including accommodation of disabilities in the workplace, discrimination on the basis of race and religion, drug and alcohol testing, and inclusive education.
Conference delegates also enjoyed some traditional Newfoundland hospitality. Highlights included dinner at The Rooms, the comedic stylings of Mark Critch, and a key note address by the Honourable Felix Collins, Minister of Justice and Attorney General.