FREDERICTON (GNB) – The authority to initiate a board of inquiry would be transferred to the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission from the minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour under amendments to the Human Rights Act introduced today.

The amendments follow a 2008 recommendation from the commission to address the issue of depending on the minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour to initiate a board of inquiry.

The amendments also represent a response to the report, Fine-tuning Parliamentary Machinery: A Review of the Mandates and Operations of New Brunswick's Legislative Officers, which recommends that the act be amended so that the commission has the sole and final authority to initiate a board of inquiry.

"The amendments would address both of these recommendations by removing the responsibility of the minister respecting the appointment of a board of inquiry and by providing the commission the direct authority to initiate a board of inquiry,” said Coulombe. “The New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board would continue to serve as the administrative tribunal during inquiries. The amendments would also reflect the provincial government's commitment to providing more independence to the commission."

Administrative amendments are proposed to address inconsistencies between the English and French versions of the act and to rephrase certain terms that would be more appropriate to its interpretation.

"All of the proposed amendments were developed in consultation with officials of the commission," said Coulombe.

The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, public services, publicity and certain associations. Grounds of prohibited discrimination under the act are race, colour, national origin, place of origin, ancestry, religion, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, social condition and political belief or activity.