Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action
Human rights commission endorses many of the concerns publicly voiced about
June 29, 2006
In a news release issued on June 29, 2006, the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall stated that the Commission shares many of the concerns that have been voiced about bill 107, the McGuinty Government’s proposed law to take away most of the Commission’s role in enforcing the Human Rights code. The news release (set out below) stated:
“While we welcome the opportunity for reform, the Commission shares many of
the concerns expressed regarding Bill 107 – an Act that would significantly
amend Ontario’s Human Rights Code – and is working hard with communities and
government to ensure that the Bill meets accepted international principles for
human rights institutions.”
The news release didn’t specify which concerns if any, voiced by community groups, that the Commission doesn’t share.
It is very significant that the Chief Commissioner whom the McGuinty Government appointed last fall to steer the Human Rights Commission through the legislative reform process has voiced such concern about the McGuinty Government’s plans. It is hoped that the Commission will publicly detail the concerns with Bill 107 that the Commission has. It is also hoped that this important official voice, together with the mounting public opposition to Bill 107, will lead the McGuinty Government to take seriously the need to substantially revise bill 107.
The McGuinty Government should immediately put off until the Fall the public hearings on Bill 107 that the Government scheduled for peak summer vacation season. It has scheduled public hearings for London, Thunder Bay and Ottawa for August 8 to 10, 2006, when many are away on holidays. The government should also now make public its plans for contemplated changes to Bill 107 that it conceded during Question Period in the Legislature on June 8, 2006 that it is contemplating.
For immediate release
June 29, 2006
Pivotal Time for Human Rights, Chief Commissioner Reports
Toronto – On releasing the Commission’s 2005-2006 Annual Report today at Queen’s Park, Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall commented that, “This is a pivotal time for human rights in our province.”
The Chief Commissioner highlighted a number of issues where progress is being made as well as areas where more work needs to be done to protect and promote human rights for the people of Ontario:
- The Commission commends the government for passing Bill 211, the Ending
Mandatory Retirement Statute Law Amendment Act, which comes into effect this
but it still has concerns about provisions that limit access of older workers to benefits and worker’s compensation.
- While advances are being made in removing barriers for persons with
disabilities, such as the Tribunal decision ordering announcements of TTC
subway stops for riders with visual disabilities, the Commission emphasized
that a number of laws and policies such as Ontario’s Building Code and the
Coroners Act, need to be harmonized with the Human Rights Code.
- The Commission is particularly concerned by the rise of Islamophobia
being experienced by Arab and Muslims communities. The Commission’s Policy
and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination, released last summer,
recognizes the detrimental effects of racism on Aboriginal, Islamic and
other racialized communities, and builds on the Commission’s earlier
investigation into the effects of racial profiling.
- Important progress was made this past year in addressing some of these issues, including training with senior command and equity staff from police services across the province at the invitation of the Ontario Police College. The Commission also reached settlements with two school boards who will begin collecting data – a key element of the Commission’s Policy – in order to monitor and safeguard against the discriminatory impact of safe school legislation and policies on racialized students and students with disabilities.
Chief Commissioner Hall added that, “I cannot emphasize enough how important
it is that we address systemic issues that prevent groups from participating
fully in society. We all lose when we exclude others.”
Hall further stated that, “Recent events around the world and right here at home are important reminders that we must balance security measures and deal with other conflicts and tensions in a manner that does not compromise human rights protections.”
“If we’re going to be a safe and healthy community, we need a strong human rights system that deals effectively and efficiently with both systemic and individual complaints of discrimination, acts in the public interest, and promotes respect for human rights through public education, partnership, and cooperation.”
While we welcome the opportunity for reform, the Commission shares many of the concerns expressed regarding Bill 107 – an Act that would significantly amend Ontario’s Human Rights Code – and is working hard with communities and government to ensure that the Bill meets accepted international principles for human rights institutions.
The Commission also undertook a number of other initiatives this past year including: updating its Policy on Discrimination and Harassment Because of Sexual Orientation to reflect the rights of same-sex marriage partners; and, holding public consultations on how family status impacts on access to housing, employment and services. This coming year, the Commission plans to release a report and a new policy on family status, and to examine the fundamental and universal human right of access to housing.
During the 2005-2006 fiscal period:
- 2,399 new complaints were received and added to the Commission’s caseload;
- 2,117 cases were settled, investigated or otherwise completed by the Commission, on average at 12.9 months
- 170 cases were referred to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for a hearing
- At year end, the Commission’s active caseload was 2,880 complaints with 3% of these being over three years old
- The backlog stood at 581 more cases filed than completed over the last three years.
- The Commission also litigated a number of cases that resulted in 50 decisions and 42 settlements at the Human Rights Tribunal as well as 12 decisions from higher courts including 2 cases at the Supreme Court of Canada.
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Policy and Education Branch
Sr. Communications Officer
Policy and Education Branch