The Community Legal Assistance Society wants to know how the parties in the upcoming BC election will address the issues that matter most to our clients. We are asking questions about our five core areas of practice:

1.  Housing Security

2. Income Security

3. Workers’ Rights

4. Mental Health

5. Human Rights

1.       Housing Security

BC’s residential tenancy laws are needlessly making people homeless. Fixing the housing crisis is not just about building more housing. It’s also about ensuring that tenants who already have a home don’t become homeless when it can easily be avoided.

If elected, would your government:

  • Amend the Residential Tenancy Act to provide more time for tenants facing eviction to dispute the eviction and / or move?

The deadlines to challenge an eviction notice are very short, as short as five days if the landlord is saying the tenant did not pay rent. And even if a tenant does challenge the eviction, the Residential Tenancy Branch will usually only give the tenant 48 hours to move out if they lose. No one can find a new home in 48 hours. These time limits needlessly put people at risk of homelessness.

  • Provide more flexibility for tenants who can pay the rent, but need a little extra time?

It is fair that landlords expect rent to be paid. But it’s not fair for a tenant to lose their home the very first time they are more than five days late, especially if they have been a good tenant for many years. We need flexibility to balance the landlord’s right to get paid with the need to ensure that good tenants are not made homeless unnecessarily.

See our Joint Letter from CLAS and TRAC to the candidates re Housing Reforms

2.       Income Security

BC’s income and disability assistance rates are not enough for people to meet their basic needs. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the government responded by increasing benefits, which made a big difference in people’s lives. We need those changes to be permanent because poverty in BC will not go away when the pandemic ends.

If elected, would your government:

  • Make the $300 increase to Income Assistance and Disability Assistance rates permanent?

Trying to get by on income and disability assistance was a challenge long before the current pandemic hit and it will continue to be a challenge after the pandemic ends. The rates need to go up permanently.

  • Permanently eliminate the job search requirements for Income Assistance?

As part of the initial application process for income assistance, individuals are required to go through a three week job search before they are eligible for basic assistance. At the beginning of the pandemic, the government waived this requirement. This barrier to receiving basic income support when people need it the most should be permanently eliminated.

  • Ensure that federal benefits are not deducted from provincial income and disability assistance?

Many people on income and disability assistance feel like governments give with one hand and take with other. Letting people on income and disability assistance keep other social benefits puts more money in the pockets of those who need it the most.

3.       Workers’ Rights

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how our current laws are failing sick and injured workers.

If elected, would your government:

  • Implement the recommendations in the 2019 Patterson Report of the Workers Compensation Board Review?

The problems with the WCB system have been studied and reported on to no end. We know the problems and we know what is needed to fix the system. It’s time for action.

  • Amend the Employment Standards Act to provide 10 paid sick days for employees?

Staying home when you are sick to protect yourself, fellow workers, and the public is the right thing to do. Workers should not have to choose between staying home or going to work sick to pay the rent and put food on the table.

4.       Mental Health Rights

Being locked up in hospital against your will is serious. We need to make sure that there are safeguards in place to respect peoples’ rights, while also making sure that people actually know their rights and can do something to enforce them.

If elected, would your government:

  • Make sure that everyone locked up in mental health detention gets independent rights advice as soon as they are detained?

Rights are useless if you don’t even know what they are and don’t know how to enforce them. This is particularly true for people who are detained in hospital with very little access to information outside of what they are told by the people detaining them. People need legal advice right away from someone who is independent of the detaining facility.

  • Commit to a comprehensive review of BC’s Mental Health Act?

BC’s Mental Health Act relies overwhelmingly on detention, coercion, and forced psychiatric treatment to deliver health care. And it’s not working. BC has the highest hospitalization rate for mental health and substance use in Canada. Mental Health Act detentions have jumped 71% percent since 2005. It is time for BC to recognize that we can and must start providing access to quality health care without taking away peoples fundamental rights.

5.       Human Rights

Many people experience serious discrimination that is not covered by the Human Rights Code, and can be forced to fit themselves into categories that don’t fully describe their identity or experience. Those who are protected by the Code and who decide to file cases will often experience delays due to an underfunded Human Rights Tribunal.

If elected, would your government:

  • Expand the protection of our Human Rights Code to include Indigeneity and Social Condition?

We are calling on the government to add “Indigenous identity” to the Human Rights Code as a prohibited ground of discrimination. This recommendation has been endorsed by a number of prominent Indigenous and human rights groups including the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the BC Assembly of First Nations, and BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, among many others.

We are also calling on the government to prohibit discrimination on the basis of social condition, a move that has been supported by numerous anti-poverty groups for years.

  • Remove unjustified barriers to commencing or continuing Human Rights cases?

BC’s Human Rights Code does not allow cases to be filed alleging discrimination on the basis of age if the complainant is younger than 19 or if a tenant shares sleeping, cooking, or bathroom facilities with their landlord. It also does not allow a complainant’s family or estate to continue their complaint on their behalf if they pass away. These restrictions prevent access to our legal system and should be abolished.

  • Ensure the Human Rights Tribunal is properly resourced to accomplish its mandate?

Funding for the BC Human Rights Tribunal has not kept pace with increased complaint volume and complexity, resulting in significant case delays that can be harmful to litigants. We are calling on the government to commit to increasing the funding for the Tribunal to a level commensurate with its increased case load.

  See our letter to the candidates re Human Rights Reforms here.