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Vancouver B.C. – Tomorrow, B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, will mark the official beginning of hearings in the Inquiry into hate in the pandemic with an opening ceremony.

Through this ceremony, we will acknowledge the courage of the people sharing their stories during the Inquiry and the work communities across B.C. are already doing to support each other. The event will centre the voices of eleven people from communities impacted by incidents of hate during the pandemic. It is an opportunity for community members to come together to stand against bigotry, hate and violence.

Media are invited to witness the opening ceremony.

WHO:Kasari Govender, B.C.’s first independent Human Rights Commissioner, and eleven community knowledge holders
WHAT:Opening ceremony to mark the beginning of hearings in the Inquiry into hate in the pandemic, conducted by BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner
WHEN:Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, from 4:00–5:30 p.m. (PDT)
WHERE:via Zoom/Facebook livestreaming
WATCH:https://hateinquiry.bchumanrights.ca/ceremony/

Background

In September 2020, legal changes came into force in B.C.’s Human Rights Code that gave the Commissioner new, broad powers to inquire into matters that would serve to promote or protect human rights in B.C., including through a public inquiry, and to report our findings publicly and to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

A public inquiry is an opportunity to delve deeply into the human rights implications of a particular incident or issue, gather factual and expert evidence, hear directly from those impacted (for example, through witness statements, public hearings or surveys) and determine recommendations for how to address the human rights issues raised. An inquiry is not a court of law and cannot make legal findings of guilt or liability.

This inquiry will take the form of a year-long investigation, and is the first conducted by an independent human rights commissioner in B.C. Learn more via our Inquiry website: hateinquiry.bchumanrights.ca

Quotes

Nancy Denham, Board Member, Restorative Justice Program, Sunshine Coast:

“The Inquiry into hate is important to bring to light the ways our biases are expressed through attitude, word and deed and to clear a path towards just relations. Through these revelations, an understanding may arise of the injury and shame which evokes hatred. With this opening ceremony, we invite the people of B.C. to walk a path towards right relations together…”

Zara Chaudhry, Project Manager, The Inclusion Project:

“The public inquiry into hate is a pivotal moment that can strengthen of the voices of community, centre their experiences and address hate with a trauma-centred approach. The inquiry will allow the many communities impacted by hate to be more than just a statistic and build a brave space to be in right relations with one another. The ceremony is a critical step in this journey to ensure community leads the path forward.”

Ingrid Méndez, Executive Director, WATARI Counselling and Support Services Society:

“BCOHRC’s Inquiry into hate in the pandemic will be the first of its kind in B.C. This inquiry will open a space in a formal process to hear the voices of those impacted by hate and systemic discrimination. It is an honour to be a part of this journey through ceremony and I hope that the findings and recommendations of this inquiry will be taken with respect towards justice and equity for all. Human rights for all!”

Lynell Halikowski, Executive Director, Prince George Sexual Assault Centre:

“The pandemic has brought with it a surge of gender-based violence. Social distancing is a crucial part of our public health response, but it also means more isolation, fewer places where people can go for help and increased pressures on service providers. This Inquiry is an opportunity to better understand these experiences so we can adapt to better serve survivors in the future. The opening ceremony is an opportunity to stand together—to find comfort and strength in community—so that we can move forward in a good way.”

Media contact

For questions about this release, Charlotte Kingston, Director of Communications, at Charlotte.Kingston@bchumanrights.ca or 1-250-216-4534.

Media kit

Download our media kit for images of Commissioner Kasari Govender.

About BCOHRC

BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner exists to address the root causes of inequality, discrimination and injustice in B.C. by shifting laws, policies, practices and cultures. We do this work through education, research, advocacy, inquiry and monitoring. Learn more at: bchumanrights.ca

About the Commissioner

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, started her five-year term on Sept. 3, 2019. Since then, our Office has been working swiftly to build a strong team, to listen deeply to the concerns of British Columbians, to deliver education materials on our rights and responsibilities, to issue policy guidance to protect marginalized communities and to lay a human rights-based foundation for our work. As an independent officer of the Legislature, the Commissioner is uniquely positioned to ensure human rights in B.C. are protected, respected and advanced on a systemic level throughout our society.

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