Charles Dent

Charles Dent, chair of the N.W.T. Human Rights Commission. (Courtesy of NWT Human Rights Commission)

The Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission is looking for proposals on how to improve the Human Rights Act.

The Act turns 10 this year, and the Chair of the Commission Charles Dent says it may be outdated.

“There was an understanding that we were bringing forward an act that would be accessible to people across the NWT,” Dent says. “That people would be in a situation where they could tell their story and people would help them resolve their problem.”

“What’s actually happened, and the way the act is being implemented, is a complainant is expected to bring forward precedent and legal argument for why their claim should be upheld. It's really, really difficult for people to understand and participate in the process in a meaningful way.”

Dent says the process has become courtroom-like and complainants and respondents need lawyers to effectively deliver their cases.

But most complainants end up representing themselves because they can’t afford a lawyer.

“The current process doesn’t always fairly resolve human rights issues,” Dent says. “The current process has become too legalized and takes too long. So we just want to make sure we're doing things right and also there may be some things that we're missing.”

The commission is seeking a consulting company to do a comprehensive review of its process.

Dent says the Commission is also going to look at the way other jurisdictions hear complaints.

The commission has a $100,000 budget for the review.

However, it could be months before any changes are implemented.

Any recommendations need to be approved by the Legislative Assembly before being adopted.