Canada Human Rights Tribunal has no authority to award legal costs, SCC rules

On October 28, 2011 the Supreme Court of Canada issued a decision in Canadian Human Rights Commission and Donna Mowat v. Canada (AG) in which it ruled that the Canada Human Rights Tribunal has no jurisdiction to award compensation for legal costs incurred by human rights complainants.  The Court found that s. 53(2) of the Canada Human Rights Act, the provision that contains the authority compensate for "any expenses incurred by the victim as a result of the discriminatory practiceā€¯ does not include compensation for legal costs incurred to prosecute a complaint.

The BC Human Rights Act contains a similar provision at s. 37(2)(d) and the BC Human Rights Tribunal has also awarded legal costs to complainants in particularly egregious cases.  See for example http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/decisions/2008/pdf/oct/376_Senyk_v_WFG_Agency_Network_(No_2)_2008_BCHRT_376.pdf.  Undoubtedly the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in this case will have a significant impact in our province as well.