June 23, 2020 - A few days after the COVID-19 pandemic started, the team at the BC Human Rights Tribunal created an emergency response process for COVID-19 human rights complaints. If someone with a complaint involving COVID-19 contacts the Tribunal or files a new complaint and the situation involves serious imminent repercussions (for example, the eviction of a tenant) the new process means the Tribunal will engage in same-day processing of the complaint.
Diana Juricevic, Chair of the Tribunal, describes how the new COVID-19 expedited process means they stop the standard paper processes, and pick up the phone: “We had no choice but to act fast and pick up the phone. Many vulnerable parties may not have access to a computer or printer or even a mailbox but they do have a phone. So we picked up the phone.”
Diana is proud to share one of the first examples of the new COVID-19 expedited process, which is a complaint resolved in 2.5 days:
Timeline of a BC Human Rights Tribunal COVID-19 Expedited Process
* We received the complaint in the afternoon
* Sarah (staff) spotted the complaint
* Steve (registrar) and Diana (chair) consulted
* Steve (registrar) screened it and assigned it to Britt (staff).
* Diana (chair) put Jacqueline (mediator) on stand-by.
* Kerry (staff) served it by email.
* Britt contacted the parties by phone.
* Parties agreed to mediation the next day with Jacqueline.
* Jacqueline held the mediation and settled the complaint.
* Jacqueline reports the parties were satisfied with the resolution, the details of which they had not previously imagined. She says the complainant would have suffered greatly if this matter had dragged on for months.
Diana says the Tribunal’s team focused their entire solution on how to help someone in their time of emergency. They built a process designed entirely to respond to their users’ needs. Part of the success, she says, is because people are willing to collaborate. “I worked closely with the Registrar,” says Diana, “and the Registrar reached out to three members of our team to work on this. I brought to the table another team member, one of our adjudicator-mediators, to be available for mediation on less than 48 hours’ notice.”
To date, the Tribunal has expedited approximately 20 COVID-19 related cases. These cases are primarily from workers who have experienced job loss or negative job impact because of concerns about their exposure to COVID-19. The cases have not been about people with COVID-19, but disputes about an acceptable level of exposure for the workers. There are a few cases about tenants being negatively treated because of fears about exposure to COVID-19.
“Every crisis creates an opportunity,” says Diana. “The COVID-19 crisis has brought us together and stronger as a team. We are showing how we can work together to promote access to justice at our Tribunal in a simple, human, and purposeful way.”
Diana is also clear that the process does not always achieve a quick resolution. For example, there are two other COVID-19 complaints that were not resolved through mediation, and although expedited hearings were scheduled, the parties have chosen to slow down the process. In another case, an expedited mediation was scheduled, but the complainant has stopped participating. However, while the process has not always been smooth, the experiment is working: the Tribunal has been able to offer the same quick and nimble process to anyone who has filed a complaint that qualifies as a COVID-19 complaint.
The BC Human Rights Tribunal is responsible for accepting, screening, mediating, and adjudicating human rights complaints in BC. They look forward to sharing more information in the Tribunal’s Annual Report that is scheduled to be published at summer’s end.
Learn more about the BC Human Rights Tribunal’s COVID-19 Response at: http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/tribunal/news/covid-19.htm#urg
Visit the BC Human Rights Tribunal at: http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/