Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission – CASHRA
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC) has a unique role in Nova Scotia. Established in 1967, it is an independent government agency charged with administering the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. The Minister of Justice is the minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.
Mandate of the Commission:
The NSHRC has a dual mandate – human rights dispute resolution and eliminating barriers to full participation in society through education, training and consultation, including policy advice.
Vision of the Commission:
The NSHRC's vision is to be a trusted leader, protector, and promoter of human rights in Nova Scotia by strengthening our relationships with government and the public.
As an agency, the Commission has many responsibilities. Currently, the Commission is focused on two main areas. First, it provides a human rights dispute resolution process that is designed to resolve allegations of discrimination both on an individual and systemic level. Second, it works to eliminate barriers and to prevent discrimination through education, training, outreach, and policy development.
The NSHRC recognizes the importance of preventing discrimination and through its work continues to promote human rights education and training by targeting communities and providing information on human rights. The NSHRC provides ongoing assistance and advice to organizations and businesses, exploring diversity in the workplace and preventing discriminatory practices.
Commissioners are appointed by Governor in Council for a set term and may be reappointed. Currently there are six Commissioners including the Director and CEO who is a non-voting member. The Commissioners are responsible for the strategic direction of the Commission as well as making decisions on human rights issues; they also take part in outreach events. Each year the Commissioners award a Human Rights Award on December 10th to recognize the work of Nova Scotians in promoting and protecting human rights.
Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
This position is currently held by an Acting Director and CEO. The search for a new CEO is underway. The Director and CEO is a non-voting member of the Commission appointed by the Governor in Council. The Director and CEO has the status of a deputy head and is responsible for the overall operation of the Commission. The director and CEO performs duties and functions prescribed by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act and has a mandate to render decisions on human rights complaints.
There are currently 20 staff members. The NSHRC staff work in three regions of the province including the central office in Halifax and two regional offices located in Sydney and Digby. Three units carry out the operational and administrative functions: the CEO's office, the Dispute Resolution unit which investigates complaints and offers mediated resolutions, and the Race Relations, Equity and Inclusion unit which provides public education on matters related to human rights. Recently the NSHRC hired in-house counsel to addresses all legal matters.
Board of Inquiry
The last stage in the processing of a human rights complaint that is not otherwise resolved is a Board of Inquiry. The Board of Inquiry is an independent administrative tribunal that is separate and apart from the Human Rights Commission. Only a Board of Inquiry can determine that discrimination has or has not occurred. Once an investigation is completed by a Human Rights Officer, the officer recommends to the Commissioners whether the matter should be dismissed or proceed to a Board of Inquiry. If the Commissioners decide to send the matter to a Board of Inquiry, notification is given to the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court to request that he appoint a Board.
There is a roster of persons available to sit as a Board of Inquiry and the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia chooses someone from the roster for any complaint referred by the Commission. This is then approved by the Commission.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission utilizes a group of external mediators to assist with the settlement of disputes. In addition, Human Rights Officers responsible for investigating complaints may conduct "on-the-record" mediations and if the mediation is unsuccessful can continue with the investigation. As part of a new initiative to focus on mediation and settlement of disputes all the NSHRC staff were trained in mediation.
The Commissioners have recently approved a proposal by staff to redesign the Commission's current inquiry, intake, and investigation processes. This initiative referred to as the i3 initiative is designed to ensure that Commission services are delivered efficiently and effectively. The new i3 model will make use of a "Resolution Conference" early in the process which will provide the parties with a timely and more interactive opportunity to resolve their differences. i3 is expected to be implemented by January 2012.
The NSHRC has received a number of complaints concerning consumers being treated differently while shopping because of their ethnicity or race. This behaviour has been identified as Consumer Racial Profiling (CPR) or Shopping While Black (SWB).
The NSHRC will attempt to address this issue through a public awareness campaign about the impact of such negative attitudes toward minorities. The project was approved by the Commissioners in April 2011. Research is currently being undertaken and an interim report will be completed by September 2012.
The NSHRC recently launched a new website which we hope will be easy for users to navigate and provide them with useful information. Check us out at: http://humanrights.gov.ns.ca/