Document Type

Journal Article/Book Review

Publication Date



BCGSEU, anti-discrimination, unjust dismissal, human rights legislation, collective agreements, Supreme Court of Canada


The Supreme Court of Canada's decision in British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGSEU) v. British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission)' starts like a classic Lord Denning judgment. Within the first few lines, without even knowing what the legal issue really is, you know who is going to win because of how that person is presented. Justice McLachlin's judgment, speaking for a unanimous nine-person Court, begins by noting that the grievor, Tawney Meiorin, "did her work well" but nonetheless "lost her job."' It was that dissonance that made the facts of the case compelling for reinstatement. But what makes the decision a landmark ruling is how the Court reached that conclusion. The compelling facts helped the Court to focus on some serious conceptual problems in Canadian human rights law. The Court used the occasion to significantly reorient its approach to anti-discrimination law.

Although the case is about the interpretation of human rights legislation, it is not actually a human rights proceeding; the case is an unjust dismissal claim channelled through grievance arbitration under a collective agreement. Yet the relevance of human rights legislation is assumed without question. BCGSEU is further affirmation that arbitrators under collective agreements have not only the jurisdiction, but also the obligation, to apply human rights legislation.