Friday, May 11, 2012

Ontario's Human Rights System Is Broken--and Can't Be Fixed

From the Toronto Star:
Six years ago, to speed up a slow, backlogged system that needed reform, Bill 107 privatized human rights enforcement. It took the Human Rights Commission out of screening, investigating and prosecuting individual discrimination cases. It makes discrimination victims investigate and litigate their cases at the tribunal without the commission’s help.
Does Bill 107 make lives better for victims of discrimination? Far from it.
It created a huge void for discrimination victims by taking the Human Rights Commission out of individual cases. The government promised free lawyers for all claimants. Yet its new Human Rights Legal Support Centre only represents a fraction. Far too many unrepresented claimants encounter respondents (those accused of discrimination) armed with lawyers. The tribunal reports that 81 per cent of respondents have a lawyer at mediation but only 32.9 per cent of claimants have any representative when filing a claim.
The Liberal government promised human rights hearings within one year. The tribunal set a goal to achieve this in only 75 per cent of cases. Its average time to complete cases is 372 days, but most of those never have a hearing.
Individuals can’t themselves investigate and litigate complex systemic discrimination cases. The Liberals pledged that the stripped-down Human Rights Commission would effectively combat systemic discrimination by bringing public interest cases to the tribunal and intervening in individual cases. To date the commission has brought only one public interest case and intervened in only 73 of the thousands of individual cases. Also, the government hasn’t established the promised anti-racism and disability secretariats, ignoring its own legislation.
Actually, that last part, about the government's "failure" to set up additional "human rights" bureaucracies, is probably a good thing. As for the system as a whole: it doesn't ameliorate purported problems, and in attempting to do so, and micro-managing us, it impairs our freedoms and does our society far more harm than good. We could save ourselves a whole lot of angst and money by simply dismantling it, lock, stock and commissars.

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