Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission - What's Up!
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, originally founded in 1967, continues its venerable work to promote and protect the rights of the citizens of our Province. The underpinnings of our agency are found in our teams of Race Relations, Equity and Inclusion (RREI) and Dispute Resolution. We at the Commission are excited to update all on our current status as well as to report on several new and exciting initiatives.
We are pleased to announce and introduce our new Director and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. David Shannon brings several years of experience in the field of human rights from his work in Ontario and nationally. His zest for the subject and vision for the future dovetail perfectly with the Commission’s current work and goals. David is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. His background as both an advocate for victims of human rights violations and as a sitting member of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal contributes significantly to the work of our Commission.
We are also excited that, with the recent appointment of three new Commissioners, our slate of board members is now at a full complement of twelve. Our Chair, Ms. Eunice Harker delivers many years of expertise in the area of human rights work. We take pride in that our Commissioners represent the diverse communities that make up Nova Scotia.
Our RREI team is the external face of the Commission. We partner with several organizations (academic institutions, government, business, NGOs and community leaders) on initiatives that highlight the importance of valuing human rights principles, and practicing equity and inclusion. In March, the RREI team was instrumental in leading the Commission’s event to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The focus for this event was in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons and specifically raised awareness concerning disability issues in the Aboriginal and African Nova Scotia communities.
In June RREI took the lead in co-hosting the book launch of Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay’s book entitled “The Two Nazanins” which chronicles the lives of two women of the same name, one, an Iranian citizen who was sentenced to death after defending herself from rape and the other, a Canadian immigrant, Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay, herself. As many are aware, Ms. Afshin-Jam MacKay is known internationally as a leading advocate for human rights.
We are also proud of the ongoing human rights training that RREI provides as well as its unique project relating to Consumer Racial Profiling. This project is the first of its kind in Canada. Currently the research data is being gathered and tabulated. We expect to be in a position to publish what we hope to be a ground breaking report later this year.
In January 2012 our Dispute Resolution team undertook what we believe is unequalled work by adopting a new approach to resolving disputes which focuses on finding early and meaningful solutions to human rights complaints. This emphasis on repairing and restoring relationships means that harms experienced by all concerned in a dispute can be more effectively remedied, and even avoided in the future.
Our legal team is supporting this work by embarking on restorative Boards of Inquiry in an effort to withdraw from the more adversarial model used by many others. In consulting with both complainants and respondents, it became clear that the traditional Board of Inquiry, which operates very much like a traditional civil trial, creates new harms through the process itself. This process tends to facilitate an accusatory, defensive, non-listening tone that aggravates the conflict and negates any repair of the original harms. The Board of Inquiry stage became an ordeal, regardless of who was reportedly the “winner.”
We as a Commission believe that our priority is to repair harm and build relationships. Our teams have worked hard to develop processes that support these values. By employing the strengths of each division of our Commission we continue to strive to advance human rights and ensure dignity, fairness and inclusiveness for all.