For immediate release – March 28, 2017

VANCOUVER – Today, West Coast LEAF is at the Supreme Court of Canada to maintain that workers should be able to work without fear of sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, and other forms of discrimination.

Schrenk v BC Human Rights Tribunal concerns how BC’s Human Rights Code is interpreted and applied. The BC Court of Appeal ruled to limit workplace harassment to only those circumstances where the harasser is a supervisor. West Coast LEAF believes that, if that decision is to stand, we’ll have turned back the clock 30 years on the fight for workplace equality.

As an intervener in the case, West Coast LEAF will argue that human rights law must recognize and remedy sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination as expressions of power that do not necessarily map neatly onto workplace hierarchies.  The Code cannot meaningfully address discriminatory and harassing conduct when the scope of discrimination is limited to only those instances in which economic control and dependency are at play.

“Limiting the law’s ability to remedy harassment to only when it is perpetuated by a supervisor undermines the law as a tool for achieving substantive equality,” says Kasari Govender, Executive Director of West Coast LEAF. “The negative effects of discrimination and harassment go well beyond economic burdens to encompass psychological harms, as well as the perpetuation of systemic inequality. Yet, if the Court of Appeal decision were to stand, sexual harassment between co-workers would not be prohibited by the law.”

“The experience of harassment or discrimination on the basis of, among others, one’s sex, sexual orientation, race, place of origin, or ability is harmful, degrading, and disempowering regardless of whether it comes from a boss, a co-worker, a contractor or a customer,” says Raji Mangat, Director of Litigation for West Coast LEAF and co-counsel on the case. “Moreover, where traditional hierarchies are reversed, harassment can be used as a way of putting the victim ‘back in her place.’ We are speaking out in Canada’s highest court to call for human rights law that meaningfully confronts workplace discrimination and harassment as it happens in real life.”

Read more about West Coast LEAF’s work on this case, including our application for leave here and here.

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Media Contacts

Raji Mangat
Director of Litigation, West Coast LEAF
604-684-8772, ext. 218 (direct to mobile phone)
litigation@westcoastleaf.org

Kasari Govender
Executive Director, West Coast LEAF
604-684-8772, ext. 211 (direct to mobile phone)
exec@westcoastleaf.org

About West Coast LEAF:

West Coast LEAF is a non-profit organization formed in 1985, the year the equality guarantees of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force. West Coast LEAF’s mission is to achieve equality by changing historic patterns of discrimination against women through BC-based equality rights litigation, law reform and public legal education. For more information about West Coast LEAF, visit http://www.westcoastleaf.org.