BC Family Status Legal Research Project (2012)

Project Status: Completed
Project Contact: Krista James
Telephone Number: 604-822-0564
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This project focused on the scope and meaning of the ground of “family status” under the BC Human Rights Code. 

Under the BC Human Rights Code, as in most jurisdictions in Canada, “family status” is a prohibited ground of discrimination. In some jurisdictions, the term is defined by statute.  The term is not defined in the BC Code.  As compared with other enumerated grounds, such as sex or race, the meaning of the term “family status” is less self-evident. Added to the Human Rights Code in 1992, the ground has been the subject of limited judicial interpretation and academic engagement as compared with other enumerated grounds. Jurisprudence on the scope and meaning of the term reveals inconsistent interpretations in different jurisdictions in Canada, with some of the most restrictive interpretations coming out of BC. Today, there is some confusion about what kinds of circumstances and actions are captured by the concept of family status discrimination.

In the face of recent confusing jurisprudence and the changing landscape of the family in BC, the BC Family Status Legal Research Project researched and analyzed the family status ground.  The BCLI published a Study Paper that thoroughly reviews the legislation and jurisprudence in relation to the family status ground and describes the issues and problems with the family status ground in BC.

The project questioned whether patterns of interpretation reflect contemporary expansive notions of family and respect for diversity and considered the barriers to access to full participation in society faced by different kinds of families.  The Study Paper also considered the development of human rights jurisprudence over the years and reflected on the role of human rights codes in fostering equality for families. The paper serves as a resource for academics, advocates, practitioners and decision-makers as well as the general public.

The Study Paper was published in September 2012.

The 2017 paper was prepared by Krista James and published by the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia for the course Human Rights Law Conference, November 2017.

This project was generously funded by the Law Foundation of BC.

Law Foundation of British Columbia

Keywords: family status, discrimination, human rights, accommodation, equality, prohibited grounds.

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Study Papers

Human Rights and Accommodation of Family Responsibilities in the Workplace: Obligation, Choice, and Invisible Caregivers (2017)

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Human Rights and Family Responsibilities: Family Status Discrimination under Human Rights Law in British Columbia and Canada—A Study Paper

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Backgrounder: BC Family Status Legal Research Project

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Other Publications

Family Status Discussion Paper – Executive Summary

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Media Releases

BCLI Publishes Study Paper on Family Status Discrimination

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BCLI to Research the Meaning of “Family Status” under the BC Human Rights Code

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