N.W.T. Human Rights Commission aims for 'restorative' approach

The N.W.T. Human Rights Commission says it wants to adopt a new 'restorative' approach, in which complainants and respondents meet face to face with the goal of reconciling before a hearing ever takes place.

Changes will have complainants and respondents meeting face to face, with goal of reducing number of hearings

The N.W.T. Human Rights Commission wants to make big changes to the way it handles human rights complaints.

In a move aimed at a reducing the number of complaints that make it to a hearing, the commission says it wants to adopt a new "restorative" approach in which complainants and respondents meet face to face with the goal of reconciling — before a hearing ever takes place.

"There isn't a victim and a perpetrator. There isn't an assumption of guilt in the restorative process. It's where you bring people together to resolve an issue," said Charles Dent, the commission's chair.

The change is one of many recommended to the commission in a recent review of its system.

Dent says some people are intimidated by the court-like hearing process, especially those who can't afford lawyers and end up representing themselves.

"When people come to understand that they have to be able to present, basically, legal arguments, they feel overwhelmed," he said.

"It's not a system now where you can just come in and tell your story and have a resolution. What we're moving to is a process that would be much closer to that."

Hearings would still occur, if needed, and lawyers may also attend, but like the face to face meetings, hearings would be conducted under the more informal, restorative model, says Dent.

The commission also wants to see human rights facilitators — people who can mediate the face to face meetings — in five communities outside of Yellowknife, where the commission is based. Just over half of the 327 inquiries the commission received in 2013-2014 came from the Yellowknife and the rest of North Slave region.

Dent says the commission will submit a plan for implementing these changes to the territorial legislature this fall.


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