Commission for Human Rights Comes to Bethel

by Ellie Coggins on May 28, 2015

Paula Haley, Executive Director of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights. -Photo courtesy of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights

Paula Haley, Executive Director of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights. -Photo courtesy of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights

The Alaska State Commission for Human Rights is in Bethel this week for their business meeting and a meet-and-greet with local people at Bethel’s Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center.

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Coggins: “Paula Haley, executive director for the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, joins us now. Paula, can you explain to us what the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights is?”

Haley: “We’re the agency that enforces the laws against discrimination in the state of Alaska. Discrimination is prohibited in employment, housing, practices by the state, financial institutions. So we have a very broad area of coverage and we protect people from discrimination based on race, sex, disability, age, marital status, so there’s a lot of coverage. Pretty much everyone in Alaska is protected by our laws.”

Coggins: “What do you see as some of the human rights issues to be addressed in this area?”

Haley: “Well, I think that the problems are similar throughout the state. People are trying to get work, it’s very important because it makes the difference into how well you live, where you live, how you can provide for your children. They experience discrimination in hiring; they experience discrimination in finding housing. Those are the kinds of things we see throughout the state of Alaska, but most people seek our assistance for employment discrimination issues.”

Coggins: “What are you doing here, for this meeting?”

Haley: “Well, we’ll have our business meeting and that will be held on Friday afternoon, the commissioners are coming in tomorrow, and we’ll have our business meeting. And then on Saturday morning we’re going to have a meet-and-greet and I’ll do a small presentation. We’ll have pastries; we hope everyone comes down to meet us. And that’s going to be at your cultural center, and it’s at ten o’clock in the morning on Saturday.”

Coggins: “What are you hoping to accomplish?”

Haley: “Well, mostly we hope that people know about us, know they can call us if they have problems that they believe are discrimination related issues and that they remember that we are here to help. We’re available to all Alaskans, not just those that live in urban Alaska.”

The annual business meeting of the Alaska Commission on Human Rights is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday at Bethel’s Cultural Center and the meet-and-greet event for the public is set for Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Cultural Center.

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