I am pleased to report on the work of the Ontario Human Rights Commission for the April 1, 2001 to March 31, 2002 fiscal year.
This year, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ontario Human Rights Code. In four decades, Ontario has become one of the most diverse communities in the world and gained international renown as a province of tolerance. Sadly, the tragic events of last September 11th and ensuing backlash against certain community members underlined the need for constant vigilance. We must continue to build on the gains we have made over the past few decades in creating an environment of understanding and mutual respect between all communities.
During the weeks that followed, I participated in a number of multi-faith gatherings in Toronto. Those meetings emphasized my deep conviction that we cannot and should not allow such events to influence our behaviour towards our friends, neighbours, classmates or co-workers because of who they are, where they come from, or what faith they observe. In order to move forward, we must seize such moments to continue our important work in advancing and respecting each individual’s human rights.
I was reminded again that Ontario’s greatest qualities are its rich cultural, ethnic and religious diversity and its strong commitment to human rights. In this regard, as in past years, we received a number of delegations from other countries that are looking to the Commission as a model for their own human rights commissions. Respect for human rights is part of the province’s cultural foundation and it is encouraging to think that the Commission’s work is having a global reach.
This year, the Commission experienced a sharp increase in the number of new complaints filed, most in the area of disability. While there may be a number of explanations for this, including increased public awareness, what is important is that the Commission is working hard to address the situation. We are fortunate to have received an additional $1M in funding from the Ontario government for 2002-2003.
Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to Commission staff for their hard work in a challenging year and their continuing effort to serve the people of Ontario well.
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.