Judge rules B.C. Human Rights Tribunal erred in dismissing racism complaint against Island Health
A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing room is shown in this file image. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
VICTORIA -- A Vancouver Island pharmacy assistant whose allegations of discrimination against supervisors at two Island Health hospitals were rejected by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal will have her case heard again after a judge ordered a review of the tribunal's decision.
Homa Safaei says she faced discrimination based on her Muslim religion and Iranian origin at the hands of coworkers and supervisors at the Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan and St. Joseph's Hospital in Courtenay in 2016.
Safaei alleges that, in one instance, she was told by a colleague: "If we came to your country, your people would kill us, but your people come here and get our jobs."
Safaei alleged another staff member told her: “We don’t let Vancouver Island become the same as the Mainland and full of immigrants."
The tribunal rejected Safaei's complaints in 2017, largely on the grounds they were filed more than six months after the alleged contraventions of the B.C. Human Rights Code occurred.
Extensions can be granted outside the six-month limit if the tribunal decides it is within the public interest to do so. The tribunal found this was not such a case and dismissed Safaei's request for a review of the decision.
However, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled the tribunal's decisions failed to take into account a more recent alleged discriminatory remark from a colleague and failed to treat the allegations together as a potentially ongoing contravention of the Human Rights Code.
"When reviewing tribunal decisions involving complaints alleging race-related grounds of discrimination, such as this case, the court must bring awareness of racism to its analysis," Justice Nitya Iyer wrote in her Sept. 23 ruling.
"However, that does not change the standard of review and it does not mean that it is necessarily in the public interest to accept all late complaints alleging race-related grounds of discrimination," she wrote.
Iyer granted a judicial review of the tribunal's decision, returning the case to the tribunal to determine whether all the allegations together constituted a continuing contravention of Safaei's rights.