Highlights from Yukon Human Rights Commission
NEW COMMISSION MEMBERS
In December 2010, two new Commission members were appointed. They were FiaJampolsky and Juanita Woods. Check our website at www.yhrc.yk.ca for biographies on Commission members and staff.
Left to right, back row: FiaJampolsky (co-chair), Jean-SébastienBlais, Juanita WoodFront row: Gloria Baldwin-Schultz, Rick Goodfellow (co-chair)
YUKON FIRST NATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The Self-Government Secretariat of the Council of Yukon First Nations, in partnership with the Yukon Human Rights Commission, obtained funding through Northern Strategy Trust to conduct a Yukon First Nation human rights jurisdictional review. The purpose of the review was to determine what supports, systems and capacities Yukon First Nation governments required to protect, promote and address human rights issues in their communities. The final report, Advancing Yukon First Nation Human Rights: Bridging the Cultural Divide was issued on June 28, 2011 by the Self Government Secretariat. YHRC has requested a meeting with the Self-Government Secretariat to discuss follow-up on the recommendations to the report.
YHRC RECOMMENDATIONS FOR RCMP POLICE REVIEW
Last fall, the Yukon Human Rights Commission made six recommendations with a focus on human rights for the Review of the Yukon’s Police Force. The staff of the Commission reviewed inquiries made about RCMP services from their past files and took phone calls and did personal interviews to collect people’s stories, responses and opinions over a two week period in early August, 2010. Forty-one inquiries related to the RCMP were analyzed and 4 interviews were conducted.
The YHRC recommendations called for an immediate and independent review by a human rights expert of the RCMP’s policy and procedures in relation to their duty to accommodate the needs of people in custody regarding their disability (including alcohol and drug addiction, mental health disabilities and FASD) or their religion, sex or any other characteristic protected under relevant human rights law. In addition this expert should also review these policies and procedures in light of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, other international conventions, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The Commission also recommended there be acomplaint process, independent of the RCMP, to investigate complaints. This process should, include civilian oversight and representatives with human rights expertise.
There were additional recommendation with regard to orientation and training of RCMP related to violence against women, sexual harassment, FASD, homophobia, and racial profiling.
As of this spring, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP provides a local analyst, who spends one week a month in Whitehorse to handle Yukoninquiries and complaints.
SUBMISSION ON THE YUKON LANDLORD AND TENANT ACT
The Yukon Human Rights Commission made six recommendations to the Select Committee on the Yukon Landlord and Tenant Act in September 2010.
The Commission recommended that the Landlord and Tenant Act should clearly state that the Human Rights Act applies to tenancy agreements and that the Human Rights Act has paramountcy over the Landlord and Tenant Act. The definition of “tenant” should also apply to those living in “long-stay” situations in motels and hotels.
The Commission also recommended that when a landlord evicts a tenant, there must be cause for the eviction, which should be clearly identified. Evictions based on any of the personal characteristics protected under human rights law, such as source of income, family status, disability are discriminatory.
In addition, the Commission recommended that the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants be outlined clearly and be fair and equitable to both parties.Landlords have a responsibility to protect tenants from harassment by other tenants or employees and also to reasonably accommodate the needs of tenants protected under human rights law, such as people with disabilities. Tenants have the responsibility to make the landlord aware of harassment they are experiencing as well as of any accommodations they need.
The Commission is pleased that the Select Committee recommended that the Act be amended and should reflect an understanding of basic human rights. It also recommended a clearly defined statement of rights and responsibilities for landlords and tenants that is fair and equitable to both. However,no changes have been made to the Landlord and Tenant Act to date and changes are not expected until after the government reconvenes following the Territorial election held in October 2011.
IMPROVING THE YUKON HUMAN RIGHTS ACT
In October, 2010 the Commission participated in the “targeted consultation” done by the Yukon Department of Justice as part of Phase II in modernizing the Yukon’s Human Rights Act. The consultation focused on themes of structure, process, and the roles and responsibilities of different human rights agencies.A copy of the Commission’s submission, “Modernizing the Yukon’s Human Rights System in Yukon”, in response to the Department of Justice’s Discussion Paper is available on the Commission’s website under the “What’s New” link. Following is a summary of the recommendations:
- 1. The YukonHuman Rights Act should be amended to strengthen the Commission’s human rights education and prevention mandate and this work should be adequately funded.
- The Act should be amended to allow the Commission to refuse to take a case to hearing if after the investigation is completed a complainant refuses what the Commission thinks is a reasonable settlement offer. This change would encourage reasonable settlements, avoid wasting valuable resources and speed the human rights process up.
- There should be either improvements to the current (conventional) system or a hybrid model with a commission, tribunal and specialized legal clinic for both complainants and respondents.
- The current appeal and judicial review process should be maintained as an important oversight mechanism by the courts to ensure decisions by the Commission and the Board of Adjudication are both fair and according to law.
- Appointments to the Commission and the Board of Adjudication should be merit-based, transparent and the Act should set out the required qualifications and process for appointments.
- The Act should be amended to ensure that at least some members of the Board of Adjudication have legal training and that all members have a demonstrated working knowledge in human rights law and administrative law principles.
- The appointments to the Board of Adjudication and the Commission should reflect the diversity and demographics of the Yukon Territory and people it serves and that there should always be at least one member who is a First Nations person.
- The Commissionshould be funded by the Member Services Board rather than the Department of Justice a) to avoid perceptions of conflict of interest arising in the current funding arrangement and b) to ensure that the Commission is independent and at arm’s length from government (which it often investigates and deals with as a respondent).
- The Human Rights Actshould be amended to state that all Yukon students in the public school system shall learn about their human rights and responsibilities as part of the prescribed Kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum.
- An introduction to human rights law as it relates to providing education services covering topics such as the duty to accommodate or harassment prevention should be a mandatory component of teacher education and training in the Yukon.
In November, 2010 the Department of Justice released its “What We Heard” document, reporting on its consultation.
In December 2010, the Department of Justice provided its report and recommendations to the Minister of Justice. However, this report has not been released to the public. The Minister of Justice advised the Commission in September, 2011 that this report is still being reviewed by the Yukon Party Caucus.