B.C. forester gets human rights tribunal hearing after province rescinds job offer

A B.C. logger who claims that the provincial government contravened the Human Rights Code after revoking a job offer will have his case heard at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Bryan Fraser says province pulled job due to political beliefs, ministry cites forest practices complaint

Bryan Fraser was offered a senior policy officer job at the Ministry of Forests in February 2015, but the offer was pulled a month later. (Council of the Haida Nation)

A B.C. logger who claims the provincial government contravened the Human Rights Code after revoking a job offer will have his case heard at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Bryan Fraser was offered a senior policy officer job at the Ministry of Forests in February 2015, only to have the offer pulled a month later.

He claims, in information provided to the tribunal, that the decision was based on his political beliefs about logging on Haida Gwaii.

Rescinded job offer

Section 13 of the code says a person's political beliefs cannot be held against them when seeking employment.

However, the province said it rescinded the job offer to Fraser because he did not disclose that he was the subject of a 2014 investigation by the Forest Practices Board

That probe found that a company where Fraser was a forester logged trees on Haida Gwaii that had cultural significance for the Haida Nation. The logging also had a negative impact on scenic views on the West Coast archipelago.

The report found that the company was not in compliance with a section of B.C.'s Forest and Range Practices Act and that it refused "to engage in dialogue with government officials and forest professionals who expressed concerns on several occasions."

'Discriminatory behaviour?'

Fraser, in his complaint to the tribunal, disputes that the investigation was the reason why the province withdrew the job offer.

And the tribunal ruled that his complaint should be heard.

"I am not convinced, based on all of the evidence, that Mr. Fraser has no reasonable prospect of success in proving that there was a nexus between his stated political beliefs and the decision to revoke the job offer," wrote tribunal member Catherine McCreary said in the decision from Jan. 12.

"Are the Ministry's stated reasons valid or are they a pretext to cover otherwise discriminatory behaviour?"

Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off B.C.'s West Coast, receives tourists from around the world, drawn to its old-growth forests, wildlife and Haida culture. (Mark Forsythe/CBC)

According to the tribunal, from 2006 to 2010 Fraser was employed as a forester by Teal Jones, operating on Haida Gwaii. He was also a resident there and a property owner.

As part of the job, he sat on an industry stakeholder panel that reviewed timber harvesting for the land use agreement between the province and the Haida Nation.

The tribunal decision says Fraser was critical of the agreement's operations and findings. Fraser also said that oversight given to the Haida Nation for several parcels of land, "would probably not meet the case law test for an aboriginal right."

According to the tribunal, he was also critical of the Haida Nation and the province for wanting to protect areas, for which Teal Jones had logging rights at the time.

Denies discrimination

In 2007, Fraser's name appeared on a press release from Teal Jones, which said the land use agreement struck between the province and Haida Nation would have "devastating" economic impacts for Haida Gwaii by drastically reducing allowable annual cuts.

The tribunal also says Fraser was publicly opposed to the political direction that the provincial government and the Haida Nation moved towards when they signed the Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act in 2010.

The act was a landmark piece of legislation recognizing the uniqueness of Haida Gwaii and the Haidia Nation. The framework also became responsible for making land and natural resource decisions on most of the archipelago.

The province denied discrimination and argues the complaint should be dismissed, arguing it will not be successful, does not align with the purposes of the code and was made in bad faith.