BC Court of Appeal affirms Human Rights Tribunal’s role in advancing public interest

Prisoners’ Legal Services filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of Mr. Charles Mzite, a prisoner with HIV. While being held in provincial custody, Mr. Mzite experienced regular interruptions of his HIV medication. The Tribunal accepted his late-filed complaint in consideration of the systemic issues involving vulnerable prisoners and the public interest in having the complaint heard. The government argued the Tribunal was wrong to consider the systemic issues and the Supreme Court of BC agreed with the government.

PLS and the Community Legal Assistance Society represented Mr. Mzite in his appeal to the BC Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal upheld the Tribunal decision to accept the late-filed complaint, accepting that the Tribunal’s remedy for an individual complaint can have a systemic impact. The Court of Appeal found that the BCSC erred in finding that the Tribunal could consider only the complainant’s personal interest in the complaint. It found “the Tribunal has been given a legislative mandate to exercise a discretion in the public interest to hear late-filed complaints.” In this case, there was evidence that BC Corrections’ policies created a systemic, ongoing problem of prisoners having HIV medication interrupted. The Court of Appeal found that the Tribunal “must be deemed well-versed…in identifying areas where public attention or scrutiny is warranted and in identifying gaps in its jurisprudence”.

Read the case here.

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