Representing the public interest
The Commission closely examines every discrimination complaint it receives. In some cases, the Commission will refer a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for a hearing. In cases where the issue has the potential to either affect the rights of many people in Canada or help define or clarify human rights law, the Commission's legal team will participate in the hearing and represent the public interest. In rare instances, a case will wind its way through Canada's court system, sometimes all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. This can take several years.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Commission's litigation team adapted quickly to virtual proceedings. They successfully argued and settled cases before the Tribunal and Federal Courts, through online mediations and online hearings.
Supreme Court ruling: Human rights victory for protection from genetic discrimination
A 2020 Supreme Court of Canada ruling means that people in Canada do not have to live in fear of being discriminated against based on their genetic information, or how it might be used against them in the future.
This Supreme Court decision was seen by the Commission as a victory for the human rights and privacy of all Canadians.
The Commission had intervened on behalf of the public interest in the Attorney General of Quebec's constitutional challenge of the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, and called on all levels of government to protect Canadians against the harms of genetic discrimination.
The Commission highlighted the need to examine privacy and human rights in the light of new technologies such as genetic testing, which can intrude into our lives in novel and unregulated ways. The Chief Commissioner said that, “A human rights approach to privacy law reform in this country is needed to address emerging concerns about how technology and the digital world are increasingly affecting our everyday lives.” She added: “Technology and privacy are fundamental to the next generation of human rights. Everyone in Canada should be able to benefit from technology without fear.”
cases were referred to Tribunal in 2020
were related to employment
involved allegations of harassment