FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was issued by the chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, Nathalie Chiasson, concerning the recent raising of the straight pride flag:

Earlier this week we were reminded that, while as a nation and as a province we have placed human rights at the centre of our moral compass, the struggle to eliminate the conditions which cause or perpetuate discrimination in its many forms is far from over.  The raising of a flag apparently in support of all groups in a New Brunswick community had the opposite negative effect. It was removed on Monday, but not before public outcry and media attention. The incident serves to validate that we need considerably more education to inform citizens and organizations about what constitutes discrimination, both direct and indirect.

Indirect discrimination occurs when the original intent may not have been to discriminate but the outcome nevertheless creates an adverse effect on someone. Statistics clearly show that discrimination still disproportionally targets minorities and marginalized or disadvantaged groups; seldom the victim is a heterosexual white male. Discrimination has been described in previous case law as “practices or attitudes that have, whether by design or impact, the effect of limiting an individual’s or a group’s right to the opportunities generally available because of attributed rather than actual characteristics.” It is an established tenet that sometimes we must go beyond treating everyone the same.

New Brunswick was one of the first Canadian provinces to establish an institution to ensure every citizen’s rights would be protected under the law. Since 1967 the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission has been responsible for the application of the Human Rights Act in this province. It is our mandate to forward the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion; to oversee the compliance process; and to conduct educational programs. Each year we host more than 60 presentations to explain the legislation and raise awareness about the divisive impacts of discrimination.

Specifically related to the recent news story, Section 7 of the Human Rights Act states that no person shall indicate discrimination or an intention to discriminate against any person or class of persons on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination in a notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation. It further states that nothing in this section interferes with, restricts or prohibits the free expression of opinions on any subject by speech or in writing. What stands out with this flag story is the lack of understanding of the effect of such an action on an already marginalized group of New Brunswick citizens.

If we are to change the narrative about diversity and inclusion, and how we achieve it, we must do so collectively, knowledgeably and respectfully. In addition to the commission, we are fortunate in New Brunswick that numerous legal, human resources and other practitioners have built an expertise in human rights law. I strongly encourage anyone unsure about how to deal with a situation involving human rights to consult them. Going forward, it is sometimes better to do the right thing than to do things right.

For further information about the act or the commission, New Brunswickers may contact the commission at 506-453-2301 or toll-free at 1-888-471-2233 within New Brunswick. TTY users may also reach the commission at 506-453-2911. People may also visit the commission’s website or email hrc.cdp@gnb.ca.