FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has introduced changes to New Brunswick’s Human Rights Act. The amendments are intended to modernize the act by adding two new prohibited grounds of discrimination, addressing inequalities in protections and defences, updating the language of the act, and making the handling of complaints more efficient.

“The act has not been revised in quite some time, and so the changes we are making will better reflect today’s realities,” said Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Donald Arseneault. “These amendments will help the most vulnerable New Brunswickers have equal opportunities to participate in society and contribute to our economy.”

The act protects the inherent dignity and equality rights of all people as outlined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It recognizes that everyone has the right to be free from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and sale of property, accommodation and services, notices or signs, and professional, business or trade associations.

“Our society is constantly evolving, and the modernization of New Brunswick’s Human Rights Act is significant for the Human Rights Commission,” said commission chairperson Nathalie Chiasson. “These new measures will enable us to better help New Brunswickers access our services.”

The proposed amendments will:

  • Add two new prohibited grounds of discrimination and exceptions, “family status” and “gender identity or expression,” and address inequalities in protection.
  • Prohibit discrimination by any person in the workplace.
  • Modernize the definition of mental disability.
  • Correct inconsistencies between English and French versions of the act.
  • Provide the commission with additional authority to dismiss a complaint in certain cases.
  • Improve the commission’s ability to investigate and settle complaints.
  • Aim to improve the experience of all parties involved in a complaint.
  • Grant protections to commission members and staff in relation to actions or omissions made in good faith under the act.
  • Grant the commission the ability to delegate powers of investigation and decision-making authority to another human rights commission in the event of a conflict of interest.
  • Ensure that a proceeding under the act is not invalid because of a defect in form or technical irregularity at the Board of Inquiry stage.
  • Clarify the prerequisites for seeking consent for a prosecution of an offence under the act.

“Your government understands what matters to New Brunswickers,” said Arseneault. “These amendments will make meaningful changes to bring New Brunswick’s human rights legislation into greater alignment with that of other Canadian jurisdictions.”

Changes to New Brunswick’s Human Rights Act come on the 50th anniversary of the act and the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission. The act has not undergone an extensive review in 25 years.