Skip to Content

BC Law Institute to research meaning of “Family Status” under BC Human Rights Code

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

The BC Law Institute has recently announced that it has commenced a project to research the meaning of “Family Status” under the BC Human Rights Code.

The Overview of the "BC Family Status Legal Research Project" found on the BCLI website states as follows:

This project is focused on the scope and meaning of the ground of “family status” under the BC Human Rights Code. Under the BC Human Rights Code, as in most jurisdictions in Canada, “family status” is a prohibited ground of discrimination. In some jurisdictions, the term is defined by statute. The term is not defined in the BC Code. As compared with other enumerated grounds, such as sex or race, the meaning of the term “family status” is less self-evident. Added to the Human Rights Code in 1992, the ground has been the subject of limited judicial interpretation and academic engagement as compared with other enumerated grounds. Limited jurisprudence on the scope and meaning of the term reveals inconsistent interpretations in different jurisdictions in Canada, with some of the most restrictive interpretations coming out of BC. Today, there is some confusion about what kinds of circumstances and actions are captured by the concept of family status discrimination.

In the face of recent confusing jurisprudence and the changing landscape of the family in BC, the objective of the BC Family Status Legal Research Project is to research and analyze the family status ground. The BCLI will publish a Discussion Paper that thoroughly reviews the legislation and jurisprudence in relation to the family status ground and describes the issues and problems with the family status ground in BC. If appropriate, the Discussion Paper will identify further legal research, law reform or legal education in this area that would benefit the public. Although the scope of this 1-year research project will be clarified in consultation with external project advisors, the project is intended to question whether patterns of interpretation reflect contemporary expansive notions of family and respect for diversity and capture the barriers to access to full participation in society faced by different kinds of families.

The Discussion Paper will also consider the development of human rights jurisprudence over the years to reflect on the role of human rights codes in fostering equality for families. The paper is intended to serve as a resource for academics, advocates, practitioners and decision-makers as well as the general public.

The final Discussion Paper will be published in June 2012 and interested individuals are invited to offer comments on the draft paper in late fall 2011.

This project has been generously funded by the Law Foundation of BC