Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

Community Organizations Are Outraged At Proposed OHRC Changes

Toronto, March 17, 2005: On March 20, 2006, the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, several community organizations in Ontario will hold a press conference to protest proposed changes to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), and to call on the Attorney General to consult with the communities before bringing forward any legislative changes.

"The proposed changes will take away the complainant's fundamental rightto a publicly funded investigation and this is outrageous" said Uzma Shakir, President of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and Executive Director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO).

Community organizations fear that with the OHRC being moved to a public education and research function, access to investigation and hearing at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal will be limited only to those complainants with the financial resources to retain their own legal counsel.

"African Canadian communities face the highest levels of poverty in Ontario. Without recourse to a publicly funded OHRC hearing, how can they have equitable access to justice in Ontario?" said Margaret Parsons, Executive Director of the African Canadian Legal Services (ACLC).

"Racialized communities will be most affected by the changes because more than anybody else, we rely on a strong and independent human rights body to uphold our rights," said Avvy Go, Clinic Director of Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Services (MTCSALC). "Race based
complaints also tend to be more complex than other claims so that complainants would need support from the Commission to proceed with their cases," added Go.

Representatives from several other community organizations will also be present at the press conference including: Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC), CCNCTO, and Parkdale Community Legal Services.

The community organizations are calling on the Ontaio Government to consult with individuals and groups from marginalized communities in Ontario before introducing any legislation.

WHAT: Community Press Conference on OHRC Changes
WHEN: Monday, March 20 - 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm
WHERE: Queen's Park Media Gallery - Queen's Park, Toronto
WHO: Uzma Shakir, OCASI and SALCO
Margaret Parsons, ACLC
Avvy Go, MTCSALC
Kimberly Murray, Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto

Contacts:
Sheena Scott, African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) - 416-214-4747 x 23
Marie Chen, African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) - 416