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Raymond Sheppard: The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission must do better

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The current complaint system at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC) doesn’t seem to be working. Those who have been traumatized by racism, sexism and hate are being re-victimized. 

To stop this, the Commission must be much more proactive and open to community input. 

See also: Protesters want a more effective NS Human Rights Commission

First of all, Nova Scotians who have faced racism, anti-Black racism, discrimination and sexism should have more time to lodge complaints with the NSHRC. Currently there is a one-year window  to file a complaint. 

This does not take into account the time and courage quite often needed to file a complaint after having endured pain, suffering and trauma. 

Under the criminal code of Canada there is no statute of limitations on murder, but yet there is a window of only 12 months in which to file a complaint regardless of the pain, suffering and trauma.

As well, the NSHRC needs to tighten its processes.  

I personally know a number of African Nova Scotians who had their complaint dismissed due to NSHRC staff dropping the ball. For some mysterious reason files seem to go missing as it relates to some African Nova Scotians who have filed complaints. 

Many African Nova Scotians do not even make it to first base in the complaint process. Up until recently there were only white intake workers, this is like asking Colonel Sanders to feel compassion for chickens.

As a result of this and other real concerns some cases are dismissed for administrative reasons without providing people with the opportunity to refile. The whole process needs to be updated and streamlined. 

Many persons with disability challenges advocate that the NSHRC and other commissions across Canada must become more proactive in removing discriminatory barriers that impede gainful employment. 

This includes: recruitment, firing, hiring, training, job assignments, harassment, promotions, pay, benefits, lay off, leave, failure to make reasonable adjustments and all other employment-related activities. Of course the Department of Labour should also step up to the plate. 

Discrimination based on income of the lack thereof does not seem to be given due consideration by the NSHRC. 

Basic rights of people who receive income assistance and people on fixed incomes, low income, no-income, homeless and/or illiterate are denied and there seems to be little or no accountability. Yet, poverty is said to be a fundamental human rights issue in Canada, one that is directly linked to equality. 

When African Nova Scotians and others worked to establish the NHRC, it was understood that it needed to hold information sessions across the province. For a time this happened, but not any more.

I believe it is necessary to continue to hold these information sessions. Is it maybe to avoid an increase in complaints that public education and the promotion of human rights in Nova Scotia is being limited?  

The question must be asked, what recourse do children who have been discriminated against have through the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act?

The rate of children living in poverty seems to be on the increase and many young people leave home and face homelessness and much discrimination in finding employment and housing.

I truly believe the NSHRC must be active when there is torture, cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment such as in the case of Nhlanhla Dlamini without rushing the process for a few dollars. The last time I checked torture is no longer legal in Canada.

See also: Assailant of Nhlanhla Dlamini found guilty of criminal negligence and assault with a weapon

I believe the NSHRC can make a difference. But there needs to be proper community and government oversight, and I am not referring to those the commission calls Commissioners.

Are officers of the NSHRC accessible to all? Is there true representation of the community sitting on the Board of Commissioners? 

Where there are hundreds of complaints that deal with racial discrimination per year, if not thousands, one would think that race relations would also be a priority. We need more resources and efforts put toward training and education.

When last did the NSHRC speak out against racism, oppression, intolerance, etc.? A couple of news releases is simply not good enough.  

The NSHRC must firmly stand behind the statement “we must protect the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family…in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as proclaimed by the United Nations.”

See also: Two years after Court decision NS Human Rights Commission still not transparent about its intake processes

See also: Gatekeepers or advocates? Disability activist speaks out on Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission

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  1. I had to resign my position February 2014, because of discrimination, I filed my complaint with the NSHRC July 2014, five months after. Mysteriously, it disappeared. “Waiting for a response, now 2020, I will definitely share!”

  2. I went to human rights in 2009 and 2010 and they said I needed a lawyer. (because you know, homeless people have 100/hr to spend on lawyers), After seeing legal aid in 2018 about the same issue, they said go to human rights. Went to NSHRC in 2018 and they did nothing but dismiss my concern. WTF Nova Scotia? No everyone with skills, education and talent leaves. I wish I never came back.

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