The mother of a deceased disabled adult was unsuccessful in her appeal from a decision that the Human Rights Tribunal had no jurisdiction to continue to entertain the Human Rights complaint made on behalf of the disabled adult son where he had died before a hearing could be held

24. January 2006 0

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Human Rights Tribunal – Human rights complaints – Discrimination – Disability – Judicial review – Jurisdiction of tribunal – Parties – death of a party

British Columbia v. Goodwin, [2005] B.C.J. No. 2593, British Columbia Court of Appeal, December 1, 2005, Hall, Low and Lowry JJ.A.

Ms. Gregoire filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on behalf of her son James Goodwin (“Goodwin”) alleging that he had been discriminated against because of his mental disability contrary to Section 8 of the Human Rights Code.

Goodwin suffered from organic brain damage and mild to moderate degree of retardation. He had been convicted of committing sexual offences and was designated a dangerous offender when he discontinued his medication at the end of his probationary period and re-offended. Gregoire alleged that the Province had discriminated against her son by failing to provide him with the proper care, treatment, drugs and supervision specifically designed to address his unique circumstances, as was required to prevent him from re-offending.

The Human Rights Commission referred the complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal for hearing. Goodwin died before the hearing could commence. The Province then applied to have the complaint dismissed on the ground that the Tribunal had lost jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. This initial application was dismissed by a member of the Tribunal and the Province applied for judicial review of that decision. On judicial review, Mr. Justice Cohen determined that the Human Rights Tribunal was without jurisdiction. Ms. Gregoire took an appeal from that decision on judicial review.

The question for the Court of Appeal was whether there was any statutory basis on which the Tribunal continued to have jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. Mr. Justice Cohen had held that the Human Rights Code established personal rights. The remedies to be granted were also remedies available to a person. As a result, upon the death of the individual there would be no person and therefore no-one on whose behalf a complaint could be filed and no-one being discriminated against.

Gregoire argued that the purpose of the Human Rights Code should be viewed as the elimination of patterns of inequality associated with discrimination. She also argued that the remedies available included measures of a systemic nature. The Court held that because the complaint in this case was filed on behalf of an individual rather than a group or class of persons and the remedies here were personal remedies, the decision of the Chambers Judge should stand. However the Court did acknowledge that there appeared to be other Human Rights Tribunals cases which may not have been rightly decided in the sense that jurisdiction was held to have continued where it had actually been lost though the death of the individual complainant.

The appeal was dismissed.

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