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Human rights director resigns
Therese Boullard doesn't apply for a third term

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The director of the NWT Human Rights Commission, Therese Boullard, is leaving her position after eight years.

Deborah McLeod, currently deputy director, was named as her successor in the legislative assembly Monday.

Boullard said she didn't apply for a third term in the position because she thought it was time to return to Vancouver where she has family and long-time friends.

"My eight years in the North has been fabulous," she said. "A piece of me will always stay here and I've made incredible friendships."

As the first director of the NWT Human Rights Commission, Boullard said the position came with its own unique challenges. Especially in the first three years.

"It was my first time in this type of position," she said. "It took a month and a half to get things set up for the launch of the human rights commission."

The commission was launched in a temporary office and Boullard said the commission was slammed with complaints for the first three years. Some cases made national news, such as the 2009 case between gay partners Scott Robertson and Richard Anthony, and landlord William Goertzen.

"It was an interesting case because it directly spoke to the limits of someone's ability to express their religious beliefs," said Boullard.

Robertson and Anthony tried to rent a home from Goertzen. After accepting a two-week rental deposit, Goertzen then refused to lease to the couple because of their sexual orientation.

Robertson and Anthony filed separate complaints under the NWT Human Rights Act, which eventually wound their way to the NWT Human Rights Adjudication Panel, where Goertzen was found to be in the wrong and ordered to pay the couple $13,000.

"Sexual orientation, gender identity and religious freedoms, sometimes those things come into contact with each other," said Boullard.

"It's an issue that's struggled with across Canada."

Boullard said what stands out the most is the NWT Human Rights Act. "It's the most progressive in Canada," she said.

"We have more protections than any other jurisdiction in Canada and our relationship with the legislative assembly is the most independent."

Human rights commissions were initially designed to be independent of government so that residents would be protected from the ruling political party.

"There's still a part of that," said Boullard. "People have equal access to the law and they need to be critical of the government."

Generally, she said she can't really think of a low point. Boullard prefers to stay optimistic and said the staff at the commission is incredible.

"I've been very blessed to have very little turnover over the past eight years," said Boullard.

McLeod was one of the first people she hired in 2004. "With any leadership there's a good time for change," said Boullard. "She (McLeod) can take it to the next level of maturity."

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