Learning the News
Clip from BC Labour Heritage Centre oral history interview, 2018.
Hanne Jensen (fired Director, BC Human Rights Branch) [00:00:01] It was a Thursday. It was the budget day. I had expected drastic cuts to the budget of the Human Rights branch, and I already had a plan for how to implement the cuts without rendering everything ineffective. But I had asked a former staff member who was in law school to go across the lawn and listen in, and report back and he came before all of everything that happened.
[00:00:31] He came rushing in, and he was in a state of total agitation. He said that what he had witnessed was unprecedented. That after… The tradition, of course, for the Minister of Finance was to table the budget and the House would adjourn and then reconvene and the budget would be debated. That’s not what happened. He sat down, Hugh Curtis sat down, and then one minister after the other stood up and tabled one bill after the other with, all with ominous titles, signalling that this was massive, massive. And that, you know, it was, he described as total pandemonium everywhere. And that’s when he left. So he had no details about Bill 27. He didn’t even know that there was a Human Rights Act reference. So I had a phone call from a reporter. I don’t remember who it was. From the buildings. And he said, he asked, “Do you know anything about the new Human Rights Act?” And of course I said. “No.” I didn’t. I had no idea. I had, I’d been told to come upstairs to the Deputy Minister’s office at 4:00 for a meeting and I’d expected that to be the budget news.
[00:01:44] So I go into the meeting, previously scheduled, and they’re running behind. So I pick up a press kit lying on the table and the first thing I open up is, the first paragraph says, the Hum- “the Minister of Labour is going to reform human rights” and I scan, begin to scan. I look at it and I get, “Okay. I know what’s happening here.” But when I was ushered in, I hadn’t finished, and there were the four people. The Deputy Minister, the A.D.M., the executive – acting executive director, and the policy adviser. And I said, “I’m not ready to talk. I think I need to read this before we have any kind of discussion here.” So I read all of it and it was clear what was happening. This was just a wholesale demolition, absolutely, of everything. Reduced protection in terms of discrimination and a total elimination of branch and commission.