Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on facebook

Vancouver, B.C. – British Columbia’s first public human rights inquiry will examine the disturbing surge of hate in the pandemic, Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender announced today.

BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner (BCOHRC) has been monitoring hate incidents as part of our core strategic priority work on hate and white supremacy. Since early 2020, there has been a significant increase in reported hate-related incidents in B.C., highlighting an urgent need for an Inquiry into Hate in the Pandemic.

“It is critical for all of us to be better prepared to prevent and respond to hate during global health, economic and social crises to protect our human rights during turbulent times,” Commissioner Govender said.

The intent of the inquiry is to examine hate in all its forms: not only racism and racial hate, but also hate directed at groups protected under B.C.’s Human Rights Code. For example, hate perpetuated on the basis of religion, gender identity, disability, Indigeneity, sexual orientation, poverty or homelessness.

A public inquiry is an official review of major events or issues to establish facts and make recommendations for change. It is an opportunity to delve deeply into the human rights implications of a particular incident or issue, to gather factual and expert evidence, to hear directly from people impacted through witness statements or surveys and to make recommendations to address the human rights issues raised. An inquiry is not a court of law and cannot make legal findings of guilt or liability or compel governments to accept inquiry recommendations.

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.

Inquiry submissions open this fall

Due to the challenging nature of the inquiry topic, we will not hold open public hearings. Instead, we will solicit expert and public testimony virtually to protect privacy and embed trauma informed practices. The Office will inform the public on how they can participate in the Inquiry later this fall once the submission period formally opens.

In preparing the inquiry and our Terms of Reference, we consulted 23 community groups with important insights into hate. With their input, we decided to focus our investigation on what has caused an apparent rise in hate incidents in B.C. during the pandemic, what kinds of hate individuals and communities have experienced, how we can address, eliminate or prevent hate in times of crisis and how well our institutions, policies and laws have responded.

“We want to think of our country as a peaceful, respectful place. The truth is, hate is here, and it is growing.”

“Many of us are uncomfortable acknowledging hate because we want to think of our country as a peaceful, respectful place. The truth is that hate is here, and it is growing,” Commissioner Govender said. “Fear and ignorance underlie much of the rise of hate and white supremacy in B.C. Combating hate in all its forms requires addressing fear, systemic inequality and ignorance through an evidence-based approach to change.”

At the close of the Inquiry, the Commissioner will release a final report with recommendations to address, prevent and manage outbreaks of hate during times of social upheaval now, during the COVID-19 pandemic and in future.

Trauma-informed inquiry process

We recognize that the topic of hate, while critical to examine, is an extremely challenging subject, and that asking people to share their experiences of hate may be re-traumatizing. To mitigate harms, the Inquiry will follow BCOHRC’s guiding principles, by being accessible, inclusive and fair, prioritizing culturally safe practices and centering testimony of people with lived experience.

We intend to protect participants through our use of trauma informed approaches to witness support and evidence gathering. This is critical to the Inquiry’s success and consistent with our principles of being trauma-informed and decolonizing.

In recognition of the sensitive nature of this material, we urge media to consider placing warnings on Inquiry news that includes disturbing stories of hate and to direct the public to community mental health supports at: hateinquiry.bchumanrights.ca/support

Media contact

For questions about this release, please contact Elaine O’Connor, Acting Director, Communications, at Elaine.OConnor@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.

About the Inquiry

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 to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Learn more at our new Inquiry website: hateinquiry.bchumanrights.ca where you can find our Terms of Reference and participant resources.

Follow us

Get the latest human rights news from us on Twitter (@humanrights4BC), Facebook (facebook.com/HumanRights4BC) and Instagram (@humanrights4BC).