B.C. Law Institute searches for the meaning of ‘family status’

Institute trying to ease confusion over scope of human rights protection across Canada
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 05/31/2011

The British Columbia Law Institute (BCLI) has launched a new research initiative to study the meaning of the ground of “family status” under the B.C. Human Rights Code.

B.C.’s human rights law lists a number of protected grounds, including race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation and age. Recent court and tribunal decisions indicate the meaning of the term “family status” is unclear. Differing interpretations of family status discrimination across the country has resulted in confusion about what it means to be free from discrimination on the ground of family status.

“It is time to step back and reflect on a meaning of family status that gives full regard to the broader purposes of human rights legislation and reflects the real challenges to participation in society faced by people living in different family arrangements,” said BCLI executive director Jim Emmerton. “Families have become increasingly diverse over the years.”

The BCLI will publish its discussion paper on the family status ground in June 2012. The paper is intended to serve as a resource for academics, practitioners and decision-makers, as well as the general public, and to explore whether further law reform is required to address family status discrimination. The BCLI website, www.bcli.org, offers more information about the project, including a project backgrounder.

The family status research project will be funded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia and supported by volunteer advisors from the legal community.

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