Amendments to the Human Rights Code to expand the grounds of discrimination and streamline complaint procedures have been introduced in the Manitoba legislature.
The prohibited grounds of discrimination are being expanded to include gender identity and social disadvantage.
Social disadvantage is defined as
“diminished social standing or social regard due to
(a) homelessness or inadequate housing;
(b) low levels of education;
(c) chronic low income; or
(d) chronic unemployment or underemployment.”
However, discrimination on this basis will only exist where is proved that the discrimination is based on a “negative bias or stereotype” related to social disadvantage.
Gender identity is not defined in the Code but commentary on the bill states that it refers to transgender persons.
The Code currently contains a definition of “dog guide” which covers dogs trained to assist visually impaired persons. This definition is being replaced with “service animal” which covers any animal which has been trained to assist a person with any type of disability.
Complaints may now be considered by panels consisting of three or more members of the commission rather than the commission as a whole.
The Commission will be given the power to combine complaints dealing with similar issues of facts and law and to request that they be dealt with together at a single hearing.
The Minister of Justice will no longer be responsible for designating adjudicators to conduct hearings. Instead, a member of the adjudication panel will be appointed Chief Adjudicator and given the power to supervise the hearing process. However, the Minister will still be able to intervene if the Chief Adjudicator fails to act.
The power of the Commission to promote settlement of complaints has been expanded. The Commission may now attempt to resolve a complaint through mediation or conciliation at any time during the complaint process. Where a complainant rejects an offer of settlement by the respondent which the Commission or the Adjudicator considers to be reasonable, the complaint must be terminated.
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