This document proposes a strategy for the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (the Commission) to resolve systemic human rights issues and to advocate for positive change.
This vision of this strategy is to fulfill the Commission’s mandate to address human rights matters proactively for the benefit of groups of individuals.
Through systemic advocacy the Commission will achieve the broad purposes of The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code (the Code) by addressing important human rights issues for groups of people other than through individual complaint processes, traditional public education, or equity programs.
Systemic advocacy addresses discrimination that is known to, or has the potential to, affect groups of people based on protected grounds.
The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code
The Code (page 14) requires the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission to work systemically when required.
25 (h) promote and pursue measures to prevent and address systemic patterns
The Commission will:
- Act in accordance with The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
- Draw upon the expertise of everyone within the organization. For example, Intake Consultants may identify issues that come before them frequently, mediators may gain insight into underlying concerns, and front line staff may receive frequent question/reports about issues that do not result in formal complaints.
- Facilitate input from stakeholders, organizations, experts, and the general public.
- Conduct its systemic advocacy work professionally, respectfully, and as efficiently as possible.
- Prioritize systemic advocacy complaints so that each case receives appropriate focus and ensure that there are adequate resources -- regardless of the total number of “active” issues.
1. Filing a systemic advocacy complaint
Systemic advocacy requests may originate in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, individual complaints, a group complaint, or a complaint put forward based on recommendations by commission staff.
Recognizing that all requests for systemic advocacy initiatives cannot be advanced by the Commission simultaneously, the Commission reserves the right to determine whether a matter will be accepted for action, rejected, or held pending availability of resources.
2. Issues selection
All systemic complaint files will be opened and then reviewed to see whether or not the issue will be advanced by the Commission through the Systemic Advocacy Strategy.
The following issues selection guidelines will be considered by the systemic advocacy working group in consultation with other members of the Commission:
- Systemic advocacy is rights based and therefore, issues considered for the Systemic Advocacy Strategy are, in accordance with the Code, required to pertain to a current law, policy or practice which in some manner systemically infringes upon human rights protected under The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
- Systemic advocacy must be an appropriate mechanism through which to advance the issue. The issue must be one the Commission is well placed to advance. The main question for consideration in this regard is: Is the Commission the appropriate agency to deal with this issue?
The following criteria will also be considered when selecting an issue for the Systemic Advocacy Strategy. These criteria may be considered for selection and prioritization purposes:
- The severity or gravity of harm, or potential harm, to the group experiencing discrimination is substantial.
- The benefits of a modification to the law, policy, or practice will be significant and impact a group of people.
- The timeliness or the presence of opportunity for addressing the issue.
- The likelihood of a practical and measurable remedy.
- The identification of a compelling situation, or receipt of a significant number of inquiries to the Commission on the matter.
- The manageability of resource cost to the Commission, in relation to the anticipated benefits to the group(s) in question.
- The existence of other factors or criteria to consider, including: the urgency of issue in relation to pressures both internal and external to the Commission, stakeholder willingness and availability, and the likelihood of resolution through systemic means.
The Commission may initiate a new systemic advocacy process (or processes) regardless of prior prioritization and selection decisions.
3. Filing and tracking system
The Commission’s Systemic Advocacy Strategy filing and tracking system will:
Keep issues “active” and on file even if the issue is ranked low on the prioritization scale and work is on hold or only being advanced incrementally. Develop mechanisms to track:
- Sources and “kinds” of complaints (e.g., citizen vs. Commission initiated)
- issues (in particular where the Commission has recommended something – a way to monitor “progress”)
The Information on file may include:
- A proposed timeline
- Context for the systemic advocacy
- Goals and objectives for the systemic advocacy process
- A consideration of possible risks
- Known stakeholders
- An appreciation for possible evaluation
Where needed, the Commission will undertake the preparation of a report to stakeholders to determine the parameters of/for a systemic advocacy process.
Menu of Strategies
The Commission may employ a variety of strategies and action in its systemic advocacy work. The following is a menu of strategies available for systemic advocacy work. This menu includes, but is not limited to:
- Draft a letter
- Recommend changes to policies, rules, laws, practices, etc. that are seen to be discriminatory or have discriminatory consequences
- Address systemic advocacy through public education or equity programs
- Seek public input with respect to recommendations for change
- Issue a media release
- Work cooperatively with governments, government departments, agencies and/or organizations towards a solution respecting the issue
- Support positions taken by other organizations respecting a discriminatory issue
- Urge government to provide funding for research and development
- Work in cooperation with affected stakeholders to pose recommendations to government
- Provide public education in support of the Systemic Advocacy Strategy
Closure and Exit Strategies
Systemic advocacy may achieve its goals and obtain resolution, but may require ongoing monitoring. Each situation is unique and, with the assistance of stakeholders, the Commission will determine when it is appropriate to close a file.