Women's council pleased with proposed changes to Human Rights Act

The New Brunswick Women's Council is welcoming proposed changes to the Human Rights Act.

The province announced Thursday that it is modernizing the act for the first time in 25 years.

Among the proposed changes, it would become illegal to discriminate based on family status, gender identity or expression.

"The proposed amendments will extend much needed protections to citizens who have long been fighting for rights and recognition, particularly transgender individuals," said council co-chair Jennifer Richard. "As both women's and trans rights are rooted in gender-based equality, the council stands in solidarity with trans New Brunswickers."

According to the council, New Brunswick is one of only two provinces and territories that do not have gender identity or expression in their human rights protections, and is the last provincial-territorial jurisdiction to add family status.

The council said it's also pleased that the amendments do not include a rigid definition of family status, instead leaving the concept open to interpretation based on emerging legal precedent.

Other proposed amendments include:

  • prohibiting discrimination by any person in the workplace;
  • modernizing the definition of mental disability;
  • correcting inconsistencies between English and French versions of the act;
  • providing the commission with additional authority to dismiss a complaint in certain cases;
  • improving the commission's ability to investigate and settle complaints; and
  • aiming to improve the experience of all parties involved in a complaint.

Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Donald Arseneault has said the changes will better reflect today's realities.