B.C.’s human rights commissioner is calling for homeless people to be protected from discrimination.
“Last week’s violence is a stark reminder of the devastating impacts of hate and violence on those most marginalized by poverty and housing insecurity,” commissioner Kasari Govender said in a statement. “People who are unhoused deserve protection from discrimination and violence.”
Govender’s comments come after a deadly shooting spree in Langley left two members of the homeless community dead. In the same week, a woman living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside was set on fire in a random incident.
In a 2020 report, the B.C. Office of the Human Rights Commissioner outlined recommendations for strengthening human rights protections for homeless people.
Govender said that adding “social condition” to the B.C. Human Rights Code would protect homeless people from discrimination in accessing housing, services and health care.
Social condition means social or economic disadvantage on the basis of level or source of income, occupation or lack of employment, housing status including homelessness, level of education or literacy or any other similar circumstance.
Discrimination that relates to social conditions could be challenged on existing human rights grounds, but the cases are rarely successful because they cannot prove discrimination directly.
The office asked people with lived experience about the discrimination they face. One respondent said
B.C. wouldn’t be the first to add a person’s social condition as a protected class in human rights legislation. Similar protections already exist in Quebec, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories.