British Columbia

B.C. names new human rights commissioner — the first in 17 years

Lawyer Kasari Govender, currently the executive director of West Coast LEAF, assumes her position in September.

Lawyer Kasari Govender, currently the executive director of West Coast LEAF, starts in September

Kasari Govender, executive director with West Coast LEAF, has been appointed as B.C.'s new human rights commissioner. (Kasari Govender/Twitter)

Lawyer Kasari Govender has been announced as B.C.'s new human rights commissioner — the first since since the province's human rights commission was abolished in 2002. 

Govender, a lawyer and women's advocate, told Gloria Mackarenko the host of CBC's On The Coast her appointment as B.C.'s newest human rights commissioner was "a dream role."

"I've been working in human rights and related to human rights my whole career and being passionate about these issues …[for] my whole life. So this is just an incredible opportunity," ​​​Govender said. 

In November 2018, the NDP government took the steps to re-establishing the provincial Human Rights Commission. B.C. is the only province in Canada without a human rights commission after it was abolished by Gordon Campbell's Liberal government in 2002. 

Govender's appointment was overseen by a bipartisan special committee made up of MLA's Sheila Malcolmson, Stephanie Cadieux, Raj Chouhan and Greg Kyllo. 

"Reintroducing [the commission] and having the kind of full political spectrum of support behind it is just so important," she said.

"This time it's set up as an independent commission as an independent officer of the legislature and that means it's really going to have ... that much more credibility as a voice."

Govender is the executive director of West Coast LEAF or the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, a non-profit organization that uses litigation and public legal education to advance gender equality.

She says her work at the organization, where she spent over a decade, will inform her work as a human rights commissioner. 

"Being here, working with an incredible team within the organization but also getting to know human rights actors and and equity seekers across the province has been a really formative experience for me."

Govender will start in September. 

With files from On The Coast

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