Backlogs at the BC Human Rights Tribunal and Applications to Dismiss Complaints—A Strategy Update from the BCHRT

BC Human Rights Tribunal

The delay of complaint resolution and limitation on the available processes for determining complaints will continue.  If you are a respondent waiting on the outcome of an application to dismiss a human rights complaint at the BC Human Rights Tribunal, your wait will continue.  A new announcement from the Tribunal, combined with the significant delay in the processing of complaints by the Tribunal, may result in respondents not learning of filed complaints until 12 months or longer after they are filed.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has been overwhelmed with complaints related to COVID-19 restrictions and states that it does not have the capacity to address these and other human rights complaints in a timely fashion, compared with its pre-pandemic timelines. To address the situation, the Chair of the Tribunal recently issued a message about the Tribunal’s backlog strategy beginning in July 2023.  The strategy will divide the backlogged complaints into three components: 1) Covid case project; 2) Outstanding Dismissal Applications Project; and 3) Screening Inventory Project.

For Component #2, the BCHRT is concentrating Tribunal Member resources in 2023 to clear that backlog, and as a result, the majority of 2023 hearings of complaints filed in 2020 or later are adjourned and will be scheduled, or re-scheduled at a later date—likely in 2024, following the onboarding of new Tribunal Members. This announcement comes almost 6 months after the BC Government announced it would increase funding to the BC Human Rights Tribunal and the Community Legal Assistance Society by as much as $4.5 million per year.

Component #2 itself, the Outstanding Dismissal Applications Project, will focus on complaints in which respondents have filed applications to dismiss using a Form 7.2 – Dismissal Application, for consideration by the Tribunal pursuant to its authority under s. 27 of the BC Human Rights Code, and are waiting to hear back as to whether the complaint will be dismissed without a hearing. Readers will recall that the availability of the Dismissal Application process was paused in November 2021, by way of an interim emergency Practice Direction—“Emergency Pause on New Applications to Dismiss”, and then that emergency pause was replaced with a one-year case pilot project in May 2022, to invite applications to dismiss in certain cases only. The Case Path Pilot project put in place a process to determine which of two paths an application to dismiss could take—either: 1) the default path of a hearing; or 2) submissions under s. 27(1) of the Code. The June 30, 2023 message from the Chair also indicates that the Tribunal is pausing its process of reviewing complaints under its Case Path Pilot Project; that pause will be reviewed in November 2023.

There are reported to be up to 3000 complaints waiting to be processed or where further information has been requested from the complainant before the complaint is accepted for filing and the respondent is notified of the complaint.

Overall, the backlog at the Tribunal is expected to continue for at least another year as the additional resources are brought on board to then begin tackling the backlog of complaints.

Please contact a member of our Labour and Employment Group if you have any questions regarding an application to dismiss a human rights complaint brought to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

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