This case concerned how s. 7 of the Charter applied to human rights proceedings.
LEAF, with the involvement of West Coast LEAF, intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Andrea Willis and Irene Schell worked for Robin Blencoe while he was British Columbia’s Minister of Sports and Recreation. They filed sexual harassment complaints against Mr. Blencoe with the British Columbia Human Council of Human Rights (now the British Columbia Human Rights Commission). Hearings were scheduled over 30 months after the complaints were filed.
Mr. Blencoe asked the Supreme Court of British Columbia to stay (stop) the human rights proceedings, claiming that the delay amounted to an abuse of process and a denial of natural justice. The Court dismissed his request. A majority of the British Columbia Court of Appeal allowed Mr. Blencoe’s appeal, finding that his s. 7 Charter right to security of the person had been violated. The case then went to the Supreme Court of Canada.
LEAF argued that human rights proceedings engaged at least the s. 7 interests of complainants, but that great care needed to be taken in deciding whether the proceedings engaged the s. 7 interests of respondents. The equality rights of complainants were central to a proper s. 7 analysis. And a stay would almost never be the appropriate remedy, as it offended the ss. 7, 15 and 28 Charter rights of complainants.
A majority of the Supreme Court held that the Charter applied to the actions of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission. For s. 7 to apply, the individual would need to show that the state had prevented them from making fundamental personal choices or that the state’s actions had caused them serious psychological harm. Neither was the case for Mr. Blencoe. In addition, the delay in the case did not amount to an abuse of process. As a result, the Court allowed the appeal and ordered that the proceedings move forward.
LEAF is grateful to Jennifer Conkie and Dianne Pothier, counsel in this case, as well as Carole Brown, Ottawa agent for LEAF.
Download the factum here.
Read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision here.
Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].