To coincide with International Women’s Day, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has released a new report that outlines commitments made by many of Ontario’s largest and most well-known restaurant chains to eliminate discriminatory dress codes for restaurant staff. Not on the Menu: Inquiry report on sexual and gender-based dress codes in Ontario’s restaurants outlines findings from an inquiry into dress codes at certain restaurants operating across Ontario.
Robyn Doolittle’s ground-breaking investigation “Unfounded” exposes how police services across Canada are “ill-equipped or unwilling to investigate sexual assault cases” with nearly 20% being dismissed as “unfounded.” At one point in the story, Doolittle asks police to explain the disproportionate “unfounded” rates. She is told by the police that the explanation might lie in coding errors or misclassification of cases, but we know that there are more factors at play. With “unfounded” rates of 19% across Canada and as high as nearly 60% in some jurisdictions, part of the answer must also lie in systemic bias against women – which is a human rights issue.
Beyond remorse – to action. It has now been two weeks since the tragic attack on a Quebec City mosque. Many individuals and organizations across Canada properly voiced their outrage, their sorrow and their support for our Muslim neighbours. But there is more to be done – and this is the time to do it. Taking lasting action is the best way to remember and honour the victims. First, we must acknowledge that Islamophobia is real, and is embedded across our society including right here in Ontario.
Human rights in Ontario
The Ontario Human Rights Code is a provincial law that gives everybody equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in specific social areas such as jobs, housing, services, facilities, and contracts or agreements.
The Code’s goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of race, sex, disability, and age, to name a few of the 17 grounds. All other Ontario laws must agree with the Code.
Not all unfair treatment and not all harassment is covered by the Code. The treatment or harassment must be based on at least one Code ground and take place within a social area to be protected. For an explanation of discrimination and harassment, see What is discrimination?
If you believe you have experienced discrimination, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre can help you determine if what you experienced is protected under the Code. If you want to take legal steps to address an incident, the deadline is generally one year from the last discriminatory event.
The Ontario Human Rights System is made up of three separate agencies:
- The Ontario Human Rights Commission (that’s us) works to promote, protect and advance human rights through research, education, targeted legal action and policy development.
- The Human Rights Legal Support Centre gives legal help to people who have experienced discrimination under the Code.
- The Human Rights Tribunal is where human rights applications are filed and decided.
Human Rights 101 will help guide you through Ontario’s Human Rights System.