When the BC Human Rights Tribunal was created, the educational role of the Tribunal was handed off to another organization, which is now the Human Rights Clinic and doesn’t appear to be doing anything in the role of advocacy.
Who’s to blame for the fact that Human Rights Tribunals don’t want to be perceived as being advocates for human rights?
If we take the belief that they are to blame, that would explain why the media looks for things like crazy cases and does very little analysis. If no one agrees to an interview, there is not much for the media to hang a story on, so they are unlikely to follow the actions of the Tribunal very closely. Reporters these days don’t have time to sit through a hearing. If there were a communications director available to go on the record, one would see a renewed interest. People could question why the Tribunal came to certain decisions and the Tribunal could explain the rationale. This would provide workplaces and individuals with more insight.
If we take the belief that the media is to blame, that would explain why the Tribunal has taken on a more apathetic role, even going so far as to lie to dismiss cases. No one is performing a watchdog role and the media only pays attention when a decision seems odd or outrageous. As the public appears disinterested there is no reason for the tribunal to champion human rights.
If we believe that it’s the right-leaning government that’s to blame, this would also explain the apathy. “Activist” judges are a buzzword among certain people who don’t like to see individual rights upheld that might conflict with more powerful interests. If a human rights tribunal takes on an activist role they may attract positive interest from the community, but they may also attract negative interest, causing the government itself to start questioning whether their appointments have become an embarrassment or are creating an environment that’s seen as not “business-friendly”. To survive in such a culture, the Tribunal members might think its politically expedient to stay below the radar and take as few cases as possible to a hearing to avoid attention and accusations of “activism.”
The reality is it probably is a combination of the three. I want to explore how both the political environment and the internal apathy of the people appointed contributes to a negative climate for human rights in BC.