Burns Lake council might be focusing too much energy resolving internal conflicts instead of focusing on plans that could actually improve our village.
Last month council implemented an ‘anti-nepotism’ policy intended to avoid favouritism among village staff and council even though Burns Lake already had a ‘standards of conduct’ policy that included restrictions to employment of family members.
But the new policy, which must’ve taken considerable staff time to be developed, leaves lots of room for interpretation.
For example, it states that employment of a relative of the mayor or member of council shall not be considered for any position; but then it says that in the event that a relative of an existing employee is elected to council, a “reasonable effort will be made to accommodate such situation.”
The ambiguous policy also states that no employee shall be allowed to be in direct supervision of a relative; but then it says that a relative may be considered for a position when there is “a suitable system of checks and balances.”
Last week Lakes District News asked the village about two current situations that could be considered nepotism under the new policy. In both cases, the village confirmed that they were in fact considered nepotism, but that the village had simply taken measures to prevent potential conflicts.
And then this week Lakes District News found out that this new policy might actually be considered discriminatory.
According to the B.C. Human Rights Code, municipalities must not refuse to employ a person because of family status – defined as being related to another person by blood, marriage or adoption.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal says that people who feel it’s unfair that a municipality won’t hire them because of their relationship to an existing employee who works there are able to file a complaint.
And there’s legal precedent for this. It happened in 1988 in the town of Brossard, Québec. A woman filed a complaint with the Québec’s Human Rights Commission after the town adopted an anti-nepotism policy. Her application for employment with the town was not considered because her mother worked at the municipal police station.
The commission stated that she had been wronged, but the town sought a declaration from the Superior Court that the hiring policy did not constitute wrongful discrimination. The Supreme Court dismissed the motion, and the Court of Appeal later ruled the town’s hiring policy was in fact discriminatory.
So it seems that the Burns Lake council has asked staff to spend time developing a policy that might have legal ramifications, it doesn’t seem very effective, and it might not have been necessary in the first place (since Burns Lake already had a policy that included restrictions to employment).
I think it’s safe to say that this policy was a mistake.