Discussion Topic 1 – Human Rights and You

Human rights are part of all our lives, yet they can be difficult to describe. In B.C., the Human Rights Code helps to protect you from discrimination and harassment. The personal characteristics protected in the Code may apply to certain situations only, and include:
Race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age (19 and older), criminal conviction, political belief, and lawful source of income.
Essentially, human rights are a responsibility we all share to respect each other.
As we begin this online public discussion, I want to start by listening. I want to hear your stories and work to understand the role of human rights in the lives of British Columbians.
I believe stories bind us. They are a reminder not only of the ways our lives are different, but of the very human ways we are connected. Sharing our stories raises awareness about issues others may have limited experience with. Using our voices can inspire others to use theirs, and telling our stories can urge those who aren’t accustomed to sharing their own to join the conversation.
I want to hear about the lived experiences that inform your outlook on human rights. You have a unique perspective, and I look forward to reading through your responses and sharing some of my own thoughts as we set out on this discussion together.

Which of the above Human Rights Code grounds have played a role in your own life?


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145 responses to “Discussion Topic 1 – Human Rights and You

    User avatar
    [-] LGM

    I am a woman with an invisible disability, a less serious mental illness living in semi rural BC. Currently, I haven’t proper care for anxiety/depression and previously had terrible care in the form of overmedication and misdiagnoses. ( one example is a ‘helper’ who attempted to manipulate me into taking Ritalin without my consent. It is a violation of my human rights to try to give me treatment without my consent, not to mention that Ritalin is an amphetamine-like stimulant and wouldn’t help someone with anxiety, at all. Another example is a male nurse who molested me…I could go on..). Now, I haven’t work or any rehabilitation or retraining opportunities since the BC government doesn’t seem to have a comprehensive rehabilitation or education and retraining programs for people living with disabilities. At the same time, I often experience stigma and stereotyping if I self disclose the nature of my disability. In other words, I experience systemic discrimination as a result of unequal mental health care, inadequate rehabilitation, and multiple barriers to a life where I could flourish. In a word, I am ‘not fully included into society, nor are my differences respected or accepted by many or even understood, I don’t have equal access to health care or equal opportunities’ https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/guiding-principles-of-the-convention.html

    Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, yet hasn’t ratified the Optional Protocol http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/CRPDIndex.aspx h
    http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/CRPDIndex.aspx https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities.html

    Since Canada hasn’t ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, people living with disabilities cannot make formal complaints to UN http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/CRPDIndex.aspx http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CRPD/OHCHR_Map_CRPD-OP.pdf

    Recommendation: The BC government should strongly advocate and pressure the government of Canada to ratify the Optional Protocol.

    Unequal Health Care

    It is a form of systemic discrimination for the Canadian and BC governments to faill to provide proper or even adequate mental health care for less serious mental illnesses. In fact, this systemic failure violates the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, section 25 :
    ”Persons with disabilities have the right to the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of disability. They are to receive the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health services as provided other persons, receive those health services needed because of their disabilities, and not to be discriminated against in the provision of health insurance (Article 25).”

    https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/the-convention-in-brief.html https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities.html

    It is also noteworthy that according to the World Health Organisation, “world wide, depression is the leading cause of disability” http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/ so that WHO has initiated a one year long campaign about depression.
    It important to realise that probably “only half of the people suffering a major depression receive care, women suffer more mood disorders and anxiety than men, and that Canada has approximately 4,000 suicides yearly, “
    http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/for_reporters/Pages/addictionmentalhealthstatistics.aspx and that “Canada has the highest rate of PTSD compared with 24 countries,” http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/features/ptsd-canada-has-the-highest-rate-and-other-surprising-things
    with Dr. Gabor Mate suggesting that untreated trauma is a cause of the fentanyl crisis, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/fixing-fentanyl-means-treating-trauma-that-creates-addicts-1.3966361
    and a report from Canada’s chief health officer stated that ‘Canada’s family violence rates are staggering’ and that such family violence often leads to depression, PTSD, anxiety https://globalnews.ca/news/3018215/canadas-family-violence-rates-are-staggering-says-new-report/

    Indeed, the inequality of Canada’s health care system, with its failure to provide even adequate care to those suffering mental illnesses costs “$50 billion a year in health care costs and lost work productivity, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada. “


    • BC government ought to restore the Office of the Mental Health Advocate
    • BC government needs an Office of Disabilities in order to better coordinate concerns and issues of people living with disabilities throughout all levels of government (various provinces in Canada have such an office, including Manitoba and Saskatchewan; the UK and most likely various governments around the world have such an office https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/office-for-disability-issues https://www.gov.mb.ca/dio/
    • That the current BC government vastly increase funding for less serious mental illnesses, restore the UBC Anxiety Clinic (closed in 2002), as well as the Health Psychology Unit at UBC which provided care for less serious mental illnesses/health problems under BC medical plans, and ensure that people receive proper and adequate mental health care in all health authorities/ regions of BC, before stage four. http://www.b4stage4.ca/
    • BC and Canada need to implement mental health delivery similar to England, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries where access to care for less serious mental illnesses is free. http://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/douglas-todd-covering-psychotherapy-under-medicare-is-just-good-economics

    Unequal Employment, Education, Rehabilitation

    It is a form of systemic discrimination for the BC government to fail to provide people living with disabilities rehabilitation, education, employment opportunities and in fact, violates Articles, 24, 27 and Article 26 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: ‘countries are to provide comprehensive habilitation and rehabilitation services in the areas of health, employment and education (Article 26).’ https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/the-convention-in-brief.html https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/the-convention-in-brief.html

    1. Lack of adequate or proper health care causes someone with less serious mental health problems/illnesses to lose full functioning and be unable to pursue work or education;
    2. Lack of re training or rehabilitation services condemns a person with a disability to perpetual poverty with reliance upon various government benefits;
    3. Government benefits, in particular for people with disabilities in BC have a long, complicated process and form(s) that not only demoralise from the start but also tend to exclude people with mental illnesses in their limited, medical model criteria. To be sure, the reliance upon the medical model to provide this definition of disability for the BC government clearly is in opposition to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ definition and WHO definition of disability so that the BC government is in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, yet again.

    BC government criteria for PWD designation and Disability Assistance.
    • Be significantly restricted in your ability to perform daily-living activities
    • Require assistance with daily living activities from
    o Another person
    o An assistive device, or
    o An assistance animal http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/family-social-supports/services-for-people-with-disabilities/disability-assistance

    • The BC government needs to provide proper and adequate rehabilitation, education, and employment services to those living with disabilities;
    • BC government definition of PWD ought to use the UN and WHO definition of disability which is based upon the social model of disability, rather than a strict rigid medical model that unfairly excludes and essentially discriminates against those living with trauma, mental illnesses;
    • PWD on BC government benefits/assistance should have the Vocational Rehabilitation program restored (cancelled and closed by BC Liberals in 2001) because it provided tuition, paid for books, transportation and more for PWD to retrain in 2 or 3 year progras.

    Public Education about People with Disabilities esp people with mental illnesses
    the social model

    Article One, definition of disability ‘Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.’ https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/article-1-purpose.html http://www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/

    To break down societal barriers, attitudes, and barriers, then the BC government ought to initiate a public education programme to educate society about people with disabilities in order to dispel stereotypes about people with disabilities and encourage full integration within society. For example,there is a great deal of stigma about mental illness, and people may well view people mental illnesses as Hollywood caricatures, rather than multi dimensional human beings, and thus, people with mental illnesses are further marginalized because of society’s attitudes. Together with societal attitudes and other barriers such as lack of health care, employment, education, or transportation, adequate housing, the situation for many with disabilities in BC is quite dire, and the situation for those with less serious mental illnesses is continual marginalization and perpetual poverty although it doesn’t have to be this way.


    • The BC government undertake a public education program that breaks down stereotypes and stigma surrounding people living with disabilities, particularly people with mental illnesses.

    Respectfully submitted, LGM

    Further notes, I’ve attempted to become politically active within a particular political party, however, I have experienced some exclusion and some discrimination.

    User avatar
    [-] Erin

    We absolutely need a human rights code in BC. I feel as though the lack of one is how the liberals have gotten away with the utmost implorable and degrading discrimination towards BCs most vulnerable people- persons with disabilities.
    I am a disabled mother of 3. I never chose to have scoliosis and fibromyalgia, but ever since the day I started receiving Disability when I came of age, it sure feels like Service BC thinks I chose this, and that I am being punished for it. Every cheque I recieve feels like a violation of mine and my childrens human rights. A disabled person recieves 375$-600$ for shelter? That’s basically denying anyone who lives in Victoria (or Sooke – such as myself) the right to housing. Litterally. You cannot get a bachelor for that much. So we might as well get sent a cheque that says 0$. Because that is how unrealistic 375-600 for rent is. You cannot get anything for that.
    Not to mention the fact that after paying rent and bills, we have no money to afford food for another three weeks…
    Disabled peoples basic human rights are trampled on in every single way. Why do you think we have a homeless problem?… Because Disabled people in BC cannot meet their basic needs with how little they are given.
    I understand having low Income Assistance because it is temporary, and only meant as a bridge between unemployment and employment. But Disabled people are generally disabled for life, so why are we treated as though we are on welfare?
    We also dont even have the right to have a relationship, and our children are denied living in a two parent family, because it is expected that a working partner can support their disabled partner, and their disability funds are revoked… This makes no sense in a day and age where “normal” working families require 2 incomes just to get by, why are we being treated differently?
    These issues sadly are only the tip of the iceberg…
    As a Disabled person id BC, i can certainly say I feel as though I am treated as less than human.
    A Human Rights Code is essential for the Disabled people of BC in order to gain our basic rights, and our dignity.

    VIP avatar
    [-] Parliamentary Secretary Ravi Kahlon

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Erin. This has been a very consistent theme that I have been hearing. I appreciate you taking time to share your thoughts.

    Admin avatar
    [-] Moderator Katrina Moderator

    Hi Erin!

    Thank you for your contribution, I just wanted to clarify that there is a Human Rights Code in B.C., there isn’t however a Commission, which is what the province is working on re-establishing. Commissions focus on education and prevention, and can work to promote, protect and advance human rights through research, education and policy development. Thanks!

    User avatar
    [-] Susan

    Disability has been a part of my life since a child ie. the adults in my family had various types but these largely went unacknowledged and were never accomodated in their lives for example hearing loss, loss of limb or eye, mental and physical disability and I have both as well.

    User avatar
    [-] George

    In 1992 when employed by the Canadian Subsidiary of a US multinational, listed on the NY Stock exchange, I was transferred to Vancouver, BC from Montreal, QB and with an L1B work permit under the FTA covered AK,BC,WA as a Senior Sales Rep, Industrial and Specialty chemicals.
    I had a supervisor in Toronto and one in Houston, TX and spent 80% of my time in the USA but was paid from Canada in Cdn funds, travel expenses were paid in Cdn funds and US funds as appropriate also from Toronto.
    As I got close to retirement in 1995 at age 65, I had earned a company funded retirement pension but in 1994 Toronto office started harassing me and the new General Manager (Canadian) who had taken over from an American posted back to the USA was proving his worth as a replacement.
    Matters came to a head over expenses which the G.M. would not approve and an internal memo was written about me with extremely negative and harmful comments.
    I took a copy of this correspondence to the BC Human Rights personnel, sued the company for C$1200 expense money in the small claims court BC, and kept on working.
    In March 1995 I was summoned to a meeting in Seattle, WA by my Houston based supervisor, terminated as an employee, paid to stay at home on full pay and benefits until retirement, given my full pension benefits, and offered the company provided automobile at a very advantageous price.
    The various Toronto personnel who had hassled me were all demoted, ultimately the US/Canadian organization was broken up and sold off becoming a US based trust.
    The intervention of the BC Human Rights Commission was definitely a decisive factor in resolving this dispute and ensuing my Human Rights under the Canadian Charter 1982 and BC Charter were respected.

    User avatar
    [-] Kole

    I am a dad of four and a father of two. This is a positive impact story. My two boys are not of my blood but they are my boys to which I wholeheartedly love. They challenge and teach me to be a stronger role model and citizen. I am lucky to live in Canada and have human rights be recognized including worker rights that have a medical plan that excepts them as my own and a tax system that acknowledges all four children as our dependants.
    My experience of parenting has been rewarding, however I notice some trends in our society that I would like to address.
    Being a father can have some limiting factors and stigmas, as simple as not always having baby change table in male public washrooms. I also find that support programs for single fathers are not as accessible or readily available for parenting father’s as I also have some single father friends. It seems to be a given that single mothers have a need for support, our society has recognised that and has programs in place, which is great, but now I believe there is a need for father support to be more available and accessible. Advertisement is also automatically geared specifically towards mothers. For example when I went shopping for baby supplies for my third child I realized most stores said things like “mom and tots” or “mom’s to be” and I thought… what about the dads? So in summary we must acknowledges and reconize that there is many different dynamics that define a family and all deserve the same treatment, access, and surport in British Columbia.