I am pleased to report on the work of the Ontario Human Rights Commission for the fiscal year 2000 - 2001.
This year, for the fifth year in a row, the Commission closed more cases (1,941) than it opened (1,775). Through the use of effective caseload management including voluntary mediation, the average age of cases is now 10.4 months; the median age is seven months.
Reducing the size of the caseload has allowed Commission staff to pursue public policy initiatives and programs with greater vigour. This year, the Commission unveiled a major public education campaign in conjunction with its updated Policy on Discrimination Because of Pregnancy. The posters underscored the right of women to nurse their babies in public or the workplace, or rather, reinforced the right of babies to be fed in public.
The Commission also released a new Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate that replaces a set of guidelines established in 1989. It incorporates critical thinking from academics, the courts and adjudicators across the country. The Commission also released the following policies:
- the updated Policy on Drug and Alcohol Testing,
- the updated Policy on Female Genital Mutilation, and
- the new Policy on Discrimination and Harassment because of Gender Identity, which highlights the need for society to recognize the rights of transgendered persons.
The Commission attracted public and media attention with its Discussion Paper, Discrimination and Age: Human Rights Issues Facing Older Persons in Ontario. By the year 2021, there will be over three million Ontarians over the age of 65. Regrettably, there is a general perception that discriminating on the basis of age is a lesser form of discrimination and not really a serious issue. The Commission does not agree and by the response of the participants during the public consultations held last Fall, this is an issue that will inform future policy work.
The Commission also entered into new partnerships and strengthened existing relationships with the private and non-profit sectors for the production of important educational resources including a new compendium of Commission policies and a video on racism. We are also proud of the partnership we have formed with Ontario’s Aboriginal communities to work together to increase awareness of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Commission’s work.
And finally, I want to express my gratitude to the dedicated and hardworking staff of the Commission without whom the progress we have made these past few years would not have been possible.
Keith C. Norton, Q.C., B.A., LL.B.
About the Commission
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) is an arm’s length agency of government, accountable to the Legislature of Ontario through the Minister of Citizenship. The Commission’s principal functions are set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code (the ”Code”) and include the investigation and settlement of human rights complaints. Under the Code, the Commission’s work also includes promoting human rights and public awareness.