Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

Human rights commission endorses many of the concerns publicly voiced about bill 107
June 29, 2006
SUMMARY

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.


News Release

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:

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:

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Jeff Poirier
Manager, Communications
Policy and Education Branch
416-314-4539

Afroze Edwards
Sr. Communications Officer
Policy and Education Branch
416-314-4528