Last Monday, March 6, 2023, our Attorney General Niki Sharma gave first reading to the Intimate Images Protection Act, a bill that enables British Columbia to reclaim control over their intimate images online.
The Attorney General began her introduction of the Bill by pointing out that it can be normal for intimate, consenting partners to share nude or nearly nude sexualized images. However, she stated, when those images are shared non-consensually, “it is a devastating form of sexualized violence that disproportionately impacts young people, women, girls and gender-diverse people.” Distributing intimate images without consent strips a person of their privacy and autonomy, and the consequences can be severe, far-reaching, and long-lasting.
The proposed Intimate Images Protection Act would give persons who have experienced the harm of having their intimate images distributed without consent the ability to stop the distribution by applying for an expedited intimate image protection order from BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal or Supreme Court. If the applicant for an order advises the tribunal or court that they are the person in the image and that they do not consent to the image being shared, the tribunal or court can order that the person who distributed the image destroy and delete it, and make all reasonable efforts to make the image unavailable to others. The tribunal or court can also order that any “internet intermediaries” (such as google, onlyfans, etc) remove the image, delete or destroy it, and de-index it from internet search engines.
And when it comes to consent, there is a provision in the Bill which affirms that consent can be revoked. Even if at one time, the person in the image told the distributor they consented to the image being shared, the legislation affirms the ongoing nature of consent – it can always be revoked. If you consented years ago to your image being shared and you now want it taken down from the internet, that is your right. You need only advise the distributor of your image and the tribunal that you do not consent to it being shared.
The Bill makes it unlawful not only to share intimate images without consent, but to threaten to share those images. If someone is threatening to distribute a person’s intimate image without their consent, that person can also apply for an order that the one making the threats refrain from sharing the image and delete and destroy the image.
Orders made by the tribunal or court are binding on whoever they are directed at. If the order is made at the civil resolution tribunal, it can be filed at the Supreme Court and enforceable as if it is an order of the Supreme Court. That means those who do not obey these orders could end up in contempt of court, which carries serious legal repercussions.
Privacy is of course a concern with this legislation. Thus, in most cases, there is an automatic publication ban provision for applicants aimed at providing reassurance that taking legal action will not result in their name being shared publicly. Distributors of intimate images are not protected from the publication ban unless they are a minor or the court or tribunal sees other reasons for protecting their identity.
Provisions in the Bill allow persons who have had their intimate images distributed non-consensually or received threats that their image will be distributed to apply to the tribunal or court for damages. That means that if the legislation comes into force, you can claim that a distributor of your intimate image pay you compensation for having done so. You can also claim compensation if they only threaten to distribute the image
One interesting thing about the legislation is that if it comes into force, it will be retrospective. Wrongdoers are on notice as of last Monday that their conduct is unlawful if they are distributing intimate images non-consensually. Those depicted in images will be able to apply for orders after the legislation comes into force for any wrongdoer conduct that is occurring right now. The Attorney General stated the following about this: “people who distribute or threaten to distribute intimate images without consent are on notice that they will face new legal consequences even if the wrongful conduct happens before the legislation comes into force.”
Since the Bill has been introduced for First Reading by the Attorney General, it is likely that it will actually come into force. New legislation in BC needs to go through a first, second, and third reading at the legislative assembly before it receives royal assent and comes into force. Sometimes this process only takes a few weeks, sometimes it can take longer. Here’s hoping it comes into force soon.
In a recent decision, the BC Human Rights Tribunal held that an Indigenous mother was discriminated against in her interactions with a child protection agency that retained custody of her children and strictly restricted her access to them for nearly three years. The mother was awarded $150,000 as compensation for injury to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect. This is the second highest award under this category in the tribunal’s history.
Governments in what’s now called Canada have interfered with the relationships between Indigenous caregivers and their children for generations. First, governments, police, and churches forcibly removed children from their homes and families and brought them to residential schools. Then there were the Sixties and Millennium Scoops. Indigenous children in care continue being overrepresented and underserved.
Indigenous families have also been resisting these colonial efforts at assimilation for generations. The Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (“VACFSS”) was meant to be one means of combating the the colonial and racist problems with child “protection.” The purpose of VACFSS was to apply a restorative child welfare model. However, it remains bound by provincial child welfare legislation.
Over 21 days spread out in 2020 and 2021, the BC Human Rights Tribunal Member Devyn Cousineau heard a complaint from an Afro-Indigenous mother, “RR,” that the VACFSS discriminated against her on the basis of her Indigeneity, race, ancestry, colour, and mental disability, in violation of section 8 of the BC Human Rights Code. In a decision issued on November 22, 2022, the Tribunal held that VACFSS discriminated against the complainant mother.
The Tribunal described RR as follows:
RR is a racialized Afro-Indigenous woman. She is the single mother of five children, one who passed away too soon and three who have complex needs. She has a low income and insecure housing. She is an inter-generational survivor of residential schools with disabilities stemming from trauma. She is resourceful, affectionate, a leader in her community, connected to her culture, and loves her children.
According to the Tribunal, VACFSS apprehended RR’s fourchildren for nearly three years and strictly regulated her access to them in a discriminatory way. It held as follows:
For the reasons that follow, I find that VACFSS discriminated against RR. VACFSS’s decisions to retain custody and restrict RR’s access to her children were informed by stereotypes about her as an Indigenous mother with mental health issues, including trauma, and her conflict with the child welfare system. Because of RR’s Indigeneity and trauma, she had a heightened need to be empowered and included in decisions respecting her children and to have complete, ongoing, and accurate information about their wellbeing. Instead, VACFSS responded to her with escalating assertions of power and control, reducing and suspending her access to the children, limiting her communication with their caregivers, and ultimately prolonging their time in care. I find that VACFSS did not have reasonable grounds to continue custody and that none of these adverse impacts can be justified as reasonably necessary to protect RR’s children.
In issuing its decision, the Tribunal made several important findings. Of note, it found that the VACFSS did not have reasonable grounds to believe RR’s children were in need of protection. The Tribunal held as follows about the VACFSS:
Its focus on RR’s trauma, mental health, and relationship with the child welfare system was not related to the actual impact of these characteristics on her children. Rather, it rested on stereotype and assumptions about RR as a parent, and conflict with RR that was connected to her Indigeneity and required accommodation.
According to the Tribunal, VACFSS’s records and evidence in the hearing demonstrated “numerous comments about RR that were derogatory and judgmental.
Further, the Tribunal held that the VACFSS failed to adequately respond to RR’s needs as an Indigenous mother. RR had a negative experience in her interactions with VACFSS because of her Indigeneity and trauma and these impacts led to conflicts with VACFSS. RR did not understand or accept the child protection concerns that VACFSS had and lost trust that VACFSS was working toward returning her children to her in good faith, so resisted. The Tribunal recognized that in these circumstances, Indigenous families sometimes respond by retreating and giving up. RR instead chose resistance. And this resistance “required a human rights response.” Instead, VACFSS “wrongly conflated RR’s resistance with her ability to safely parent her children.” The Tribunal recognized that this pattern was not new and was reflective of the way the state-sanctioned system treated parents in the context of residential schools. It’s a continuing discriminatory trend in the child protection system.
Lastly, the Tribunal Held that VACFSS’s were not reasonable or justified.
In deciding to award RR $150,000 for injury to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect, the Tribunal stated as follows:
Throughout this time, RR was excluded from key parts of her children’s young lives, including their education. She did not see any report cards, she did not get them dressed for picture day, or see a class photo. She was alienated from their school, whose administrators were told at various points to phone the police if she was seen at the school. She was given little information about their lives, which stoked her worst fears. She learned about many significant things that happened to her children, including the level of violence and dysregulation they were experiencing in the Hollyburn residence, for the first time in this hearing.
The Tribunal also reminded child protection agencies of the great responsibility that comes with their power:
As I have explained, the power that VACFSS exercises as a child protection agency is almost unparalleled in Canadian society: the power to take a person’s children based on an allegation. With such power comes a grave responsibility to exercise its duties free of discrimination. As this case demonstrates, the consequences for failing in that responsibility could not be more severe – for the parent and for the child. In my view, the extraordinary power that VACFSS exercises within its mandate is a factor which weighs in favour of a higher award.
Some of RR’s feelings were described by the tribunal as follows:
RR was pushed to the brink of hope: “It’s hard to even have hope when you don’t have your children with you. It’s hard to even want to live anymore when you don’t have your kids”. She felt labelled as “another single mother drunk Indian that’s basically disposable” and who would “end up giving up for her kids”. She described the feeling of “so many different fresh workers coming on and they all have an opinion about me”. By the end of the period in the complaint, she says:
I was emotionally, mentally, and physically and emotionally, just exhausted. Like I felt like I was under water and VACFSS is sitting here on a rowboat, and sitting here watching me drown and not even helping me and I’m swimming and trying to catch a breath and trying to breathe. And I’m not getting any help, or … support. I felt like I was drowning.
The injury to dignity award was the second highest ever awarded at the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The Tribunal decided it should be high because the complaint was unprecedented, and it exposed systemic forces of discrimination and their profound impacts on an Indigenous mother.
The Tribunal also ordered VACFSS pay RR $5,000 as costs for improper conduct because it disclosed critical documents late and its former counsel briefed a witness on the evidence of other witnesses who testified before them.
According to the decision, Complainant Craig MacLean requested that Respondent Black Card Books pay for ASL interpreters to accompany him to a three-day workshop in October, 2018 in Vancouver, BC regarding writing and publishing books. The bookstore declined. It suggested that the complainant bring his own interpreters and provided the complainant with the workshop materials in print format. Mr. MacLean attended the workshop without interpreters. He was not able to understand the presentations or communicate with other participants.
In British Columbia, persons with characteristics listed in the BC Human Rights Code(including physical disability) are protected from discrimination when they are accessing publicly available services. To make out a complaint regarding services successfully, complainants must show that they have a protected characteristic, that they experienced a negative impact in relation to the services, and that there was a connection between their protected characteristic and the negative impact. Once this is proven, the respondent needs to justify the impact to avoid a finding against them.
In this case, the complainant showed that there was a connection between his disabilities and his adverse experience at the workshop. He cannot hear and he has a small range of vision within which he can see things up close. To communicate in person, he requires ASL interpretation. Usually he has two interpreters sit close to him to communicate. He did not have the interpreters at the workshop and so was not able to understand the material or communicate. He arrived in what seemed like a large dark room where there were around 100 attendees. This made the room difficult for him to navigate visually. He felt excluded and disheartened.
In finding that Mr. MacLean experienced an adverse impact, the tribunal noted the following at paragraph 22:
As the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized, “the disadvantage experienced by deaf persons derives largely from barriers to communication with the hearing population”: Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General),  3 SCR 624 at para. 57. To enjoy equal access to public services, a DeafBlind person may require that information be communicated in a different way than for people who are not DeafBlind. This principle is at the heart of human rights legislation, which is intended to examine “the way institutions and relations must be changed in order to make them available, accessible, meaningful and rewarding for the many diverse groups of which our society is composed”
Once the Tribunal found that the complaint experienced an adverse impact in connection with his disabilities, the Respondent Black Card Books needed to demonstrate that it did everything necessary and practical to accommodate Mr. MacLean and anything more would have amounted to undue hardship. Black Card Books was unsuccessful. When the complainant initially asked for interpreters and the respondent told him he could arrange his own, he offered to send the respondent an invoice. The respondent would not agree to pay. They said they would not pay because the event was free. It should be noted that the respondent’s purpose for putting on the event was largely to entice attendees into buying their publishing program, which cost around $35,000. It only made one sale at the event, which according to the respondent witness’s testimony, did not cover the costs of putting on the event.
In considering whether the respondent proved undue hardship, the tribunal held at paragraph 27 that the issue is not whether an accommodation costs money. Usually accommodations cost money. It will always seem cheaper to maintain the status quo. The question is whether the cost is undue, considering factors like the respondents’ size, economic conditions, and available funds. The Tribunal held the following at paragraph 27:
I accept that paying for ASL interpreters would have increased the cost of putting on the workshop. But that does not end the analysis, because “[i]t will always seem demonstrably cheaper to maintain the status quo and not eliminate a discriminatory barrier”: VIA Rail at para. 225. The Human Rights Code requires service providers to meaningfully assess the cost of a required accommodation before concluding that it is too expensive. “Impressionistic evidence of increased expense” is not enough: Eldridge at para. 41. Ultimately, the issue is not whether an accommodation costs money – it often does – but whether that cost is undue, considering factors like the respondent’s size, economic conditions, and available funds: Dunkley v. University of British Columbia, 2015 BCHRT 100 at para. 427
The Respondent did not demonstrate that the cost was undue because it did not investigate whether it could afford the cost before refusing to pay it. The store did not make inquiries about what ASL interpreters would be available in Vancouver, how much they would cost, and how that would affect their event budget and the company’s overall financial situation. Further, the offer of allowing the complainant to bring his own interpreters was not reasonable because it put the entire burden of accommodation on the complainant. This would require the complainant to “assimilate into a service that was not designed for him, rather than requiring the service to adapt to meet everyone’s needs.” That would be inconsistent with the purposes of the Human Rights Code, which is meant to ensure that services are inclusive and accessible.
After finding that discrimination occurred, the Tribunal decided to award the complainant $2,500 as compensation for injury to his dignity, feelings, and self-respect. The tribunal also ordered that the respondent provide the complainant the opportunity to participate in the workshop with the interpretation services of his choice.
The BC Government Website has their own summary of where and when the orders apply here. It is only a summary. The website is not the law itself. This post offers information on what is stated in the orders. It is only legal information and should not be taken as advice.
General Organization of the Orders
Service providers and unvaccinated potential service users are likely to be confused about exactly who can attend what facilities and services, when. The government announcement on August 23, 2021 framed the vaccination passports as being required primarily at “non-essential” services. However, the orders are framed differently. One order applies to post-secondary housing (the “Post-Secondary Housing Vaccine Order”), the second to food and liquor service premises (the “Food and Liquor Services Vaccine Order”), and the third to “gatherings and events” (the “Gatherings and Events Vaccine Order”). Together, I will call these the “Orders.”
Determining whether one of these orders applies, from a strictly legal standpoint, is not so much about determining whether the service is essential or non-essential. With respect to the third order, the determination is about whether the service constitutes an event or gathering covered by the order.
Who the Orders do not Apply to
The orders do not apply to people who are under 12-years of age.
These three orders do not require employees/staff to have a vaccine passport (unless, for example, the staff member attends a restaurant as a patron, or a faculty member lives in university housing). They are directed at residents who reside in post-secondary housing, patrons of food and liquor serving premises, and persons who attend “events” as participants.
However, note that there are two other provincial health officer orders (here and here) that do require proof of vaccination for health care workers in long term care and assisted living facilities, private hospitals, and provincial mental health facilities. Those two orders do not specifically provide for disability accommodations on human rights grounds, although human rights protections may still exist.
As per the definition of “post-secondary housing” in the order, “family or apartment housing” for students is not included. As such, it seems that the Post-Secondary Housing Vaccine Order is mainly meant to target dorms rather than family on-campus housing and apartments.
Food and Liquor Services Exceptions
The Food and Liquor Services Vaccine Order applies to food establishments that have table service/patron seating. Restaurants (including buffets) and cafes with table service are included. Food primary or liquor primary establishments such as pubs, bars, lounges, night clubs, private clubs, and liquor manufacturing facilities with tasting rooms or private seating are included.
According to the preamble of the Food and Liquor Services Vaccine Order, paragraph M, it does not apply to:
Gatherings and Events Applicability
The Gatherings and Events Vaccine Order mandates proof of vaccination for participants in certain indoor “places” where “events” are held.
A “place” is defined in the order as a venue, including the following places (but not including a “private residence”):
**vacation accommodation is defined in the order as: a house, townhouse, cottage, cabin, apartment, condominium, mobile home, recreational vehicle, hotel suite, tent, yurt, houseboat or any other type of living accommodation, and any associated deck, garden or yard, in which a person is residing, but which is not the person’s primary residence.
Applicable Event Purposes
The Gatherings and Events Vaccine Order defines “event” so that the order only applies to activities happening at places for the following Applicable Event Purposes:
For some clarity, the definition of “event” in the vaccine card portion of the order stipulates that the following event types constitute events held for the Applicable Event Purposes:
a ticketed sports activity, concert, theatrical production, dance or symphony performance, festival, conference, convention, trade fair, home show, workshop, wedding reception, funeral reception not at a funeral home, and a sponsored, ticketed party
Number of Participants Involved
When it comes to having to provide proof of vaccination, the Gatherings and Events Order only applies to “gatherings” of participants in the activity. Exactly what “gathering” means is not set out in the order, but, presumably, there would need to be more that one participant involved in the activity for it to constitute a gathering.
As described above, when the event constitutes a gathering of 50 or less people and is not for the purpose of “an adult sports activity” or “an exercise, fitness or dance activity or class,” the Gatherings and Events Order does not apply.
Inside v. Outside
As per section D. 2. of the order, proof of vaccination applies only to activities occurring inside. Per section A.2. of the order, an event held in a tent with two or more sides is an inside event, and per section A.3., an event held in a tent without sides is an outside event. It’s unclear whether the definitions regarding tents and inside and outside events apply to the proof of vaccination section of the order. Either way, for proof of vaccination requirements to apply, the activity needs to be happening inside.
The Gatherings and Events Vaccine Order includes a specific list of who and what activities it is not meant to apply to in the preamble at paragraph L. The specific exceptions are as follows:
Taken together, the following checklist describes the conditions that need to be met for the Gatherings and Events Vaccine Order to be applicable:
If any of the conditions of the checklist are not met, the Gatherings and Events Vaccine Order likely does not apply.
The law regarding BC’s COVID-19 vaccination passport and entry into various establishments in the province was published today. This post discusses the publication of the relevant orders, their lack of human rights (disability) accommodations, the issue of whether they prevail over the discrimination protections set out in the Human Rights Code, their relationship with the Charter, and the protections available to service providers who follow them. Activities that are not covered by the orders will be set out in a later post.
Further to my post of August 23, 2021 and in line with what Dr. Henry stated at the press conference regarding the anticipated Orders on August 23, 2021, the Orders do not provide exemptions for people who cannot get vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination for medical reasons. The only people who the orders make exemptions for are those under 12 years of age. This means that the orders will conflict with the BC Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination and requires service providers to accommodate people with disabilities to the greatest extent possible. The orders also conflict with the guidance of BC’s Human Rights Commissioner, who released a policy guidance document in July, 2021 affirming that service providers must seek to accommodate people who are unable to get vaccinated on the grounds of their BC Human Rights Code protected characteristics (disability, religion, family status, etc.).
Though there is not specific provision for disability accommodations in the Orders, there is mention that persons who want to avoid complying with the Orders can ask the Provincial Health Officer (Dr. Bonnie Henry) directly for reconsideration of the Orders applying to them. The process is set out in section 43 of the Public Health Act as follows:
The manner of making requests is set out by the Provincial Health Officer as follows:
As such, the Order can only be varied in relation to certain individuals in a limited set of circumstances, when a request is made to the Provincial Health Officer with documentation from a medical practitioner that the health of a person would be “seriously jeopardized” if the person were to receive the vaccine, as well as the person’s relevant medical records. And consideration of these requests is discretionary; there’s no guarantee for an exemption even with the required medical documentation.
Do the Orders Prevail Over the Human Rights Code?
There is uncertainty surrounding whether service providers who are in breach of the Human Rights Code due to acting in accordance with the Public Health Officer orders will be shielded from liability for discrimination. On the one hand, there are Public Health Act provisions meant to protect those who are following the Orders from legal and other adverse action. However, at the same time, there is a paramountcy provision in the Human Rights Code stipulating that if there is a conflict between the Human Rights Code and another enactment (such as the Public Health Act), the Human Rights Code prevails.
Public Health Act Provisions Regarding Immunity from Legal Proceedings
The provisions of the Public Health Act that give immunity to service providers responsible for the vaccine passport screening are as follows:
As such, it may be that service providers acting in accordance with the order but contrary to the Human Rights Code cannot have a human rights complaint brought against them successfully UNLESS they are acting in bad faith. It is a high threshold for finding bad faith conduct and it would need to involve something uniquely egregious.
However, sections 92 and 93 of the Public Health Act may also be read narrowly so that they only capture court actions (for example in tort or contract) for damages, but not human rights complaints brought in the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Or the provisions could be interpreted so that they allow a complainant to successfully bring a human rights complaint, but not be entitled to any damages.
Further uncertainty comes with analyzing the Public Health Act provisions in the context of the Human Rights Code‘s paramountcy provision, and that is discussed further, below.
Additional Public Health Act Protection from Adverse Action for Service Providers
In addition to being shielded from legal proceedings, potentially including human rights complaints, service providers acting in accordance with the orders are also generally shielded from any “adverse action,” which is defined as “an action that would adversely affect, or that threatens to adversely affect, the personal, financial or other interests of a person, or a relative, dependent, friend or business or other close associate of that person, and includes any prescribed action.” This means that if someone feels aggrieved by a service provider carrying out an order and so attempts to take adverse action against that service provider in some way, they’re potentially contravening the Public Health Act section 94. One such contravention might include the recent rumours that opponents of the vaccination passports plan to call restaurants carrying out the order and make fake take out orders to harm the businesses.
It is possible that this provision may also be interpreted as preventing potential complainants from successfully bringing a complaint under the BC Human Rights Code, because doing so could potentially be interpreted as an “adverse action.” However, it does not appear that the intention of this provision was to capture human rights complaints, and this section of the Public Health Act is so broad that it may potentially be unconstitutional. And again, further uncertainty comes with analyzing the Public Health Act provisions in the context of the Human Rights Code‘s paramountcy provision, and that is discussed further, below
As per section 99 of the Public Health Act, contraventions of section 94 are an offence. Section 99 offences can come with alternative penalties under section 107 such as paying a person compensation and/or, additionally under section 108 of the Public Health Act, a fine of up to $25,000, imprisonment of up to 6 months, or both.
No Mention of Human Rights Code in Events and Gatherings Order
Interestingly, there is no mention of the BC Human Rights Code in the third order regarding events and gatherings. In contrast, the other two Provincial Health Officer orders regarding food and liquor establishments and university housing have included a provision in their preamble regarding the Provincial Health Officer’s consideration of the Human Rights Code. For example, in the preamble to the order regarding vaccine passports at university housing, the following is stated about the Human Rights Code:
O. In addition, I recognize the interests protected by the Human Rights Code, and have taken these into consideration when exercising my powers to protect the health interests of residents, staff and faculty at post-secondary institutions;
Human Rights Code Paramountcy Provision
Although there is no mention of the Human Rights Code in one of the Orders, the code still generally applies when someone experiences an adverse effect (such as being denied entry to a venue) as a result of their disability not being accommodated by a service provider.
The Public Health Act sections potentially shielding service providers from human rights code liability for discrimination, or having to pay damages for discrimination, must be read and analyzed with reference to section 4 of the Human Rights Code, which stipulates as follows:
4 If there is a conflict between this Code and any other enactment, this Code prevails.
Given this section of the Human Rights Code, a complainant could argue before the Human Rights Tribunal that although the Orders mandate vaccination cards without any reasonable exemption to accommodate for disability, this conflicts with the Human Rights Code, which requires accommodation. Per section 4 of the Human Rights Code, the code, with it’s accommodation requirements, prevails.
Further, a complainant could also potentially argue before the Human Rights Tribunal that although the Public Health Act provides immunity from legal proceedings for damages and protection from adverse actions to service providers when they follow the Orders, this conflicts with the Human Rights Code, which allows complainants to bring a human rights complaint, for damages, when they have been discriminated against. Per section 4 of the Human Rights Code, the prevailing provisions are those of the Human Rights Code that allow a complainant to bring a human rights complaint for damages.
Constitution/Charter of Rights and Freedoms Consideration
All three of the recent orders regarding vaccination passports do include a provision regarding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I often hear people bringing up the issue of these types of orders violating their charter rights and therefore being of no force and effect. That is not necessarily true. Under Canada’s Charter, it is possible for law to violate constitutionally protected rights, but in a way that is considered justified per the Charter. And so in that case, a court considering a Charter challenge can uphold a law even though it was considered unconstitutional, because the Court finds this justified under the Charter. The Orders bring up this issue by stating as follows in their preambles:
I further recognize that constitutionally-protected interests include the rights and freedomsguaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person, along with freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. These rights and freedoms are not, however, absolute and are subject toreasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.These limits include proportionate, precautionary and evidence-based restrictions to prevent loss oflife, serious illness and disruption of our health system and society. When exercising my powers toprotect the health of the public from the risks posed by COVID-19, I am aware of my obligation tochoose measures that limit the Charter rights and freedoms of British Columbians less intrusively,where doing so is consistent with public health principles;
Activities Not Covered By the Orders
Service providers and unvaccinated potential service users are likely to be confused about exactly who can attend what facilities and services, when. The government announcement on August 23, 2021 framed the vaccination passports as being required primarily at “non-essential” services. However, the orders are framed differently. One order applies to university housing, the second to food and liquor service premises, and the third to “gatherings and events.”
I plan on discussing what is not covered by the Orders in a separate post, which will follow.
In a decision issued on February 24, 2021, the BC Human Rights Tribunal held that the owner of Vancouver’s Toscani Coffee Bar discriminated against four complainant patrons based on their race when she refused one of them service and referred to him and his friends as “you Arabs.”
Each of the four complainants had previously immigrated from North Africa to Canada. They speak Arabic and identify as having Arabic ancestry. The coffee shop owner is a woman of colour who was raised in a Muslim family in Indonesia. One of the complainants told the owner’s Italian husband, who also works at the coffee shop, that they were unhappy with her service. The owner felt that a few of the complainants were disrespectful towards her in her own business.
On July 8, 2019, the store owner refused to serve one of the complainants, as she did not desire to serve someone who did not want to be served by her. The owner and complainant then spoke outside. Tribunal Member Devyn Cousineau accepted the complainant’s evidence about the conversation. According to him, the owner said “I don’t want you Arabs here, and you should tell your friends that I don’t want you here. You are not welcome anymore.” The tribunal accepted the owner’s explanation for refusing service as well, stating as follows:
 I accept Ms. Conforti’s explanation for why she told Mr. Haouas, Mr. Gharbi and Mr. Ben Maaouia that she would not serve them. She felt they had disrespected her in her own business. She understood that they had talked to others about not wanting her to serve them, and that she was simply granting their wish. She was frustrated that they did not recognize her authority in her own business and went around her to her husband for service or to complain about her. As an immigrant woman of colour raised in a Muslim household, running a business that serves immigrants from all over the world, I accept that Ms. Conforti did not refuse to serve the Complainants because they are Arab.
It was therefore accepted that the owner did not refuse service due to the complainants being Arab. That did not end the matter, however. Discrimination occurred nevertheless because a racial comment was connected to a negative effect on the complainants. The Tribunal held the following about this:
 In a discrimination complaint, it is not the respondents’ intention that matters but the effect of their behaviour: Code, s. 2. In this case, the effect of Ms. Conforti’s words was to connect the Complainants’ Arab ancestry to her communication that she would not serve them. The discriminatory words were “spoken at the very same time and place” as she told Mr. Haouas she would not serve him, and they were “inextricably linked” to that communication: Gichuru v. Purewal, 2019 BCSC 484 at para. 484. The effect was discrimination.
For injury to their dignity, feelings, and self-respect, the Tribunal awarded $1,000 to each of the four complainants.
On January 31, 2021, the Survivor Stories Project began sharing multiple stories of anonymous people claiming to have been sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted by a former employee at Chuck’s Burger Bar in Victoria. Thirteen accounts have now been published on the Survivor Stories Project instagram page. The stories allege that the Chuck’s Burger Bar employee acted in a predatory manor, coercing them into becoming highly intoxicated or drugged, or drugging their drinks. According to many of the accounts, the employee would then bring the women to his home and sexually assault them.
Chuck’s Burger Bar has made two posts on it’s social media regarding the allegations and has received many negative comments in response. Most recently, Chuck’s stated publicly that they have terminated the employee.
“Birth alerts” in BC refer to the controversial practice where social workers flag expectant parents to hospital staff without their consent when they believe the expectant parent poses a risk to the newborn. The birth alert directs hospital staff to alert the social worker when the baby is born. Ministry of Children and Family Development (“MCFD”) records from 2019 show that birth alerts result in the removal of a newborn from their parents “approximately 28% of the time.” Indigenous families are disproportionately affected by the birth alert system. According to MCFD’s records, 58% of parents impacted by birth alerts in 2018 were Indigenous. Birth alerts have been referred to in a report by the National Inquiry Into Missing Indigenous Women and Girls as “racist and discriminatory” and a “gross violation of the rights of the child, the mother, and the community.” Former Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond stated the following to IndigiNews about the practice:
“Apologies and amends are necessary, as there has been harm done, including promoting the stereotypes that Indigenous families require intense surveillance because they cannot safely care for their own children,”
However, the practice was not banned by the BC government until September 16, 2019.
If a newborn has been traumatically removed from your family shortly after birth, you may not even know yet that the removal resulted from a birth alert. According to MCFD, it has not advised families that their privacy rights have been breached with the issuance of birth alerts.
One spokesperson for MCFD claimed in a statement to IndigiNews that this was because MCFD did not want to “retraumatize” affected families by providing notifications of past birth alerts. In my view, this response only reinforces that the MCFD takes a discriminatory and paternalistic approach in its interactions with Indigenous families. The baby alert approach promoted a stereotype that Indigenous families are not capable of safely caring for their own children. The comment from the MCFD about retraumatization again reinforces a stereotype that Indigenous families are not capable of deciding what is best for them.
The MCFD should notify families that their privacy was breached by the issuance of a birth alert and then the families can decide for themselves whether they wish to potentially face retraumatization by going through a process of seeking an apology and amends. MacIsaac and Company is currently investigating potential claims regarding this matter.
TL;DR: Racism is widespread in BC, as evidenced by cases heard at the Human Rights Tribunal, and there is a better way forward.
The violent death of George Floyd under the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis triggered mass protests in the United States and calls for action to address systemic racism worldwide. In what is now known as British Columbia (BC), citizens, activists, politicians, and lobbyist groups have been rallying for change within our own systems. These calls to action have been dismissed by some who claim that racism either does not exist in BC or is not as big of an issue in BC as it is in the United States. For example, on June 17, 2020, Jagmeet Singh (leader of the New Democrat Party of Canada and Member of Parliament (“MP”) for the Riding of Burnaby South), was ordered out of the House of Commons (the “House”) after he refused to apologize for calling Bloc Quebecois MP Allain Therrien racist. Singh made a motion asking the House to recognize that there is systemic racism within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) force, he asked that the RCMP release all “use of force reports and the associated settlement costs,” and he called for an “increase in non-police investments in non-violent intervention, de-escalation, and mental health and addictions supports,” among other things. Therrien rejected the motion, so it was not passed, and that is when Singh called him racist.
Writer, activist, and comedian Baratunde Thurston, in his April, 2019 TED Talk, “How to Deconstruct Racism, One Headline at a Time,” provides a framework for analyzing how to deconstruct racism in a way that is inclusive, rather than discriminatory or dismissive. He examines the “phenomenon of white Americans calling the police on black Americans who have committed the crimes of … eating, walking or generally ‘living while black.'” He breaks down news headlines in relation to this phenomenon and reveals that each one is defined by a 1) subject, 2) action, 3) target, and 4) activity. This is the structure to white supremacy. For example, the following can be broken down as follows: White Woman [subject]Calls Police On [action]Eight-Year-Old Black Girl [target]Selling Water [activity]. This headline is real, by the way. Thurston argues that we need to “level up” and change the action. For example, for the story to look more inclusive, the headline would read: White Woman [subject]Buys All Inventory From [action] Eight-Year-Old Black Girl [target]Selling Water [activity]. When we level-up and change the action, we change the story, which “changes the system that allows those stories to happen” and we “write a better reality for us all to be a part of.”
Therrein’s rejection of a motion partly to recognize that there is systemic racism within the RCMP is just one example of calls to action against systemic violence being dismissed in Canada. Contrary to these dismissals, racism is pervasive in the RCMP, “Canada” generally, and more specifically, here on the West Coast. This blog post outlines just some of the recent findings of racial discrimination in the BC Human Rights Tribunal (the “BCHRT”). The BCHRT is responsible for hearing complaints made under the BC Human Rights Code, RSBC 1996 c. 210, which prohibits discrimination against people in certain areas of daily life. In this post, I demonstrate the pervasiveness of racism in BC by reflecting on cases over the last decade where the BCHRT has held that someone from the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) community was discriminated against based on their race. After summarizing four cases, I use Thurston’s framework to demonstrate how the cases could have been inclusive rather than discriminatory.
In this 2014 case, the complainant tree planter was successful in alleging that his employer discriminated against him and at least 55 other Black tree planters in BC’s interior on the basis of their race. Per paragraph 8 of the decision, the allegations included “‘deplorable’ living conditions, inappropriate, inadequate and scant food, slave-like working conditions, consistent exposure to racial taunting and harassment, violent behaviour (in particular by Sunny), inadequate or no payment of wages, and sexual harassment” of one person in particular. Several of the workers testified at the hearing that the conditions at the tree planting camps were slave-like.
Ultimately, the tribunal did not find that all of these allegations were made out, largely because according to the tribunal, South Asian and white employees had to work in conditions just as terrible as those the Black employees worked in. However, the tribunal found that the employer discriminated against the employees by taunting them nearly daily with racial slurs like the N word and “lazy dogs.” The employer also did not pay them in full, but did pay special friends of their principals and white workers in full. One of the principals of the employer company sexually harassed a white woman by telling her “move your pussy,” calling her a “lazy pussycat,” telling her he’d marry her if she wore purple underwear, staring at her backside when she turned around, and telling a Black worker she was in a relationship with that his “lips would turn red” from sucking her and that he should “put a little Colgate on his dick and fuck her.”
An expert in anti-black racism testified on behalf of the complainants in the case. The Court noted her evidence about racism in Canada as follows:
 Dr. Bernard testified that black men and women coming as refugees to Canada have expectations that it will be a safe haven and hopefully a better place to live and raise a family. In Africa, Canada is seen as the Promised Land.
 The actual experience is not as nice. Their qualifications are not recognized in Canada. A racism violence health study carried out between 2002 and 2007 identified that highly educated blacks are the most under-employed. They were least likely to have employment in their field of expertise; many had to return to school to be retrained. Some could not afford that and, as a result, took jobs to support their family, hence the under-employment.
 Other research looked at the experience of witnessing racism. The conclusions were that witnessing racism was just as damaging as experiencing it. What was observed was the everydayness of racism. This all had an impact on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being of African Canadians.
 It is suggested that the everydayness of racism shows up in employment. Black Canadians may change their name to have a better opportunity to find employment. Their ideas are minimized in the workplace. They are given the worst jobs in the workplace. Typically, concerns they take to supervisors, in most cases, are not addressed which makes them feel undervalued, worthless, desperate and trapped.
Ultimately, the Tribunal held that in this case, there were “open racial taunts and clear distinctions in the areas of payment of wages drawn along racial lines which equally clearly establish the nexus for more subtle issues such as toilet arrangements in Golden.” It ordered that the employer cease contravening the Human Rights Code and pay each of the 55 or more workers $10,000 for injury to their dignity and self-respect plus $1,000 per 30-day period worked or portion thereof between a certain 3-month period.
This case is summarized in my post “Landlord Ordered to Pay Indigenous Tenant $23,000 for Discrimination Over Smudging.” The BCHRT issued its reasons for deciding that a landlord contravened the BC Human Rights Code by making discriminatory statements to his Indigenous tenant and attempting to evict her after learning that she smudged in her apartment. The landlord in this case made various comments towards the complainant which were based on stereotypes about Indigenous peoples and which she found exhausting and burdensome. For months, he fought with her over whether she could smudge, and ultimately, she had no meaningful choice but to move out of her home. The Tribunal ordered the landlord pay the complainant just over $23,000 for lost wages, expenses, and injury to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect.
In this 2019 case, the Vancouver police responded to a call about a man in distress. When an officer arrived, the man said that a young woman had been chasing him with a knife. He said that the young woman was with a young “Native” man. The police found a young man who they thought was the subject. He was the BCHRT complainant’s son. The complainant happened to be in the area walking her dog. She saw her son and the police vehicle and approached the scene to find out what was happening. More officers and police vehicles came. The tribunal held that the officers treated the complainant mother adversely based on the following:
they would not answer her questions about her son;
they repeatedly told her to go home;
one of them physically removed her from the site of her son’s arrest and roughly took her about 35-40 feet away;
one of them stonewalled her in response to her questions and threatened to charge her with obstruction of justice;
one of them physically blocked her ability to witness her son’s arrest and ensure his safety; and
generally, they “treated her as an annoyance and an ‘erratic, uncooperative’ woman rather than a mother with legitimate concerns about her son.”
In determining whether the complainant’s identity as an Indigenous woman was a factor in the adverse treatment, the BCHRT accepted that the officers were sincere in asserting that the complainant’s indigeneity had nothing to do with their treatment of her. However, stated the tribunal at paragraph 101 of the decision, “discrimination is much more complex than the thoughts at the top of a person’s mind.” At paragraph 102, the tribunal held that
[r]acial discrimination is most often subtle and pernicious. While there are no doubt still incidences of deliberate, open, racist attacks, it is more common that people do not express racial prejudices openly or even recognize them in themselves.
Factors that supported the Tribunal’s conclusion that the adverse treatment was due to the complainant’s indigeneity included that the police officers lacked culturally appropriate training and awareness, misunderstood the complainant and treated her conduct as suspicious; and reacted to the complainant in a way that was neither proportionate nor responsive.
She was awarded $20,000 for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect. Further, the Vancouver Police Board was ordered to provide better training to employees who would be engaging with Indigenous people.
The complainant in this case was a Black correctional officer who worked at the North Fraser Pre-Trial Centre. The Tribunal held that he was discriminated against in his employment on the grounds of race and colour. Colleagues and supervisors allegedly made racial comments to him, about him, or about other coworkers. The employer did not take the complainant’s allegations seriously. The BCHRT made the following findings:
that the complainant was stereotyped as “slow” when opening doors in Control when there was no credible basis for his colleagues to conclude that he was
that someone at work said to the complainant, “because you’re Black” as a sarcastic remark because he was aware that the complainant had, in the past, alleged that he was being picked on because he is Black.
that one supervisor said to another supervisor about the complainant, words along the lines of “maybe if you turn on the lights you can see him,” because of the complainant’s skin colour
that a colleague, while telling a story about a former fellow officer who had the appearance of a Black-skinned person, used the N word slur
that the complainant was singled out and treated differently than other employees
that someone called the complainant a “Toby” at work, which carries the same connotation as slave
that one colleague called the complainant an “LBM,” referring to a “Lazy Black Man”
that a colleague circulated a photo to the complainant of an African warlord accompanied by a news article about killing inmates
that a colleague stated to another colleague something like “sorry you have to work with that [N word]” in relation to the complainant
that the complainant was called a “rat” and told he had a “target on his back” after complaining about the above behaviour
Ultimately, the complainant left his position and, understandably, did not go back. The BCHRT found that he had been subjected to a poisoned work environment. When there is a poisoned work environment, departing may be the only reasonable option. The remedy portion of the case was not completed.
A Way Forward: Baratunde Thurston on How to Deconstruct Racism
The above-noted stories of discrimination in British Columbia demonstrate that racism continues to impact the daily lives of BIPOC here. As stated by Thurston, we need to level-up and change the action, which will change the story, which “changes the system that allows those stories to happen” and allows us to “write a better reality for us all to be a part of.”
The Complainant, Spyros Verozinis, alleged that when he attended the Maple Ridge Honda Dealership with his wife to buy a vehicle, the Finance Manager engaged in high pressure communications regarding the details of the vehicle and he was unable to fully understand what was occurring due to his disability – congenital deafness. He alleged that he ended up purchasing a vehicle he would not have purchased if his disability were not taken advantage of and he fully understood the terms of the sale. As such, he complained he was discriminated against on the grounds of mental and physical disability in the area of service contrary to the BC Human Rights Code.
Following a 2-day hearing, the Tribunal found that the Complainant’s mental and physical disabilities were not a factor in him being sold the vehicle. Mr. Verozinis was successful in establishing that he had a physical or mental disability. However, he failed to established that he experienced adverse treatment related to his disability and the car sale. The Tribunal held that he was too inconsistent on this issue to be reliable and instead preferred the evidence of the car dealership’s witness. Regarding the inconsistency, the Tribunal found the following at paras 45 and 46:
 Mr. Verozinis has testified both that he was adversely impacted because the vehicle was purchased by his wife rather than by him and that he did not receive the vehicle he wanted being a hybrid or electric vehicle but instead received a gas‐powered vehicle. However, Mr. Verozinis has testified to his awareness that a vehicle in the category that he desired was not within the financing capability of his wife. In other words, Mr. Verozinis had to know and I find that he did know that the vehicle his wife was purchasing at the time of the transaction with the Respondent was a gas‐powered vehicle. Accordingly, I find that Mr. Verozinis was not adversely impacted by the purchase of a gas‐powered vehicle as opposed to a hybrid or electric‐powered vehicle.
 More contentious is Mr. Verozinis’ inconsistency around understanding that the vehicle was purchased by his wife. It is clear on the evidence that Mr. Verozinis understood that his wife was financing the purchase of the vehicle, either because Mr. Verozinis believed that his bankruptcy prevented him from purchasing the vehicle at all or because he understood that if the vehicle was purchased in his name it would be at a higher interest rate than if his wife purchased the vehicle. In either event, Mr. Verozinis clearly understood that the financing of the vehicle was dependent upon his wife’s income rather than his own.
Further, the Respondent was successful in demonstrating that it took all reasonable and practical steps to avoid an adverse impact on the Complainant because their employees offered to use a microphone, spoke loudly and clearly, and sat so he could see their faces at all times.
The Tribunal also held at para 55 that “generally, a person seeking accommodation must give the service provider the facts needed to accommodate, facilitate the implementation of reasonable accommodation proposals, and accept reasonable accommodation.”
This case demonstrates that those alleging discrimination should ensure they are clear and consistent when giving evidence at a hearing. It also demonstrates that people with disabilities who need accommodation must assist service providers in accommodating them before they can allege that the service provider has failed to do so. Further, it demonstrates that service providers should make all reasonable and practical efforts to accommodate those with disabilities.