With the passing of Bill 160, Saskatchewan has abolished its human rights tribunal and shifted its caseload to the Court of Queen’s Bench.
The change will make the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) more efficient and effective in dealing with discrimination complaints, said the commission. It should also lead to earlier resolution using mediation, collaboration and talking circles.
“Under the current tribunal model, investigation by the human rights commission takes approximately 15 months, with an additional 21 months before a decision is rendered by the human rights tribunal, averaging approximately three years,” said the commission. “These delays are excessive and unacceptable given that such cases are inherently stressful for both complainants and respondents.”
Full-time judges are imminently qualified to hear such cases, which are too important to be relegated to administrative adjudicatory bodies overseen by lawyers “acting as part-time quasi judges,” said the SHRC.
The move should place the emphasis on case resolution through restorative justice and away from the punitive approach of retributive justice, said the commission.
“We are particularly interested in a best practice from Manitoba called directed mediation,” said the SHRC, citing that province’s success in settling 98 per cent of its complaints by resolution and settlement without litigation, prosecution and tribunals. “In the last two years, they have conducted only three prosecutions.”
If prosecution is required, the SHRC will continue to provide a lawyer at no cost to the complainant, it said.
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