So says Amnesty International and a professor of Social Work, but happily, they give all the reasons why the Bill (160) is necessary and important.
Tribunals were set up to hear human rights complaints -in Saskatchewan and across the country -for two key reasons: expertise and accessibility. Both are vital when something as fundamental and vulnerable as human rights is on the line.
A tribunal with a mandate focused on human rights can develop expertise in ways that even the most talented provincial court judge, whose docket spans a dizzying array of issues, can simply never achieve. Specialization helps strengthen human rights protection.
A tribunal is also a much more relaxed and less expensive setting than the formality and complexity of a courtroom. Rules of evidence are not as stringent. Claimants are not faced with the intimidation that comes with such trappings as lawyers and judges wearing robes. Given that human rights complainants very often come from marginalized, low-income communities, this informality goes far in boosting both comfort and confidence.
There is wide agreement that the human rights tribunal has faced challenges. Notoriously underfunded for many years and lacking basic institutional support, it is perhaps not a surprise that the average time for processing a case has climbed to a reported 21 months.
What is perplexing is to leap from recognizing the tribunals need repair to Bill 160's extreme proposal: get rid of them. There are many other possibilities, including increased funding, different approaches to appointing tribunal members, new rules of procedure and providing the tribunal with badly-needed infrastructure. There is no indication those options have been explored. If they have, there is no explanation why they were rejected. In the absence of that basic information one is left with the worrying prospect that this may be less about the professed concerns about efficiency and more about animus towards the tribunals.