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In keeping with its mandate to promote understanding of human rights and to conduct research to eliminate discriminatory practices, the Commission undertook a number of policy development initiatives in 2003-2004. Commission policies and guidelines are approved public statements that set out the Commission’s interpretation of the Code.

Racial Profiling

During the year 2003-2004, the Commission completed its inquiry into the effects of racial profiling on communities. The purpose of the inquiry was twofold: to give a voice to individuals who have experienced profiling and, in doing so, raise awareness of the negative consequences of profiling among people who have not been impacted by it.

On December 9, 2003, the Commission released its final Report on the inquiry entitled Paying the Price: the Human Cost of Racial Profiling. The Report looks at the impact of racial profiling on individuals who have experienced it, their families and their communities, and the detrimental effects of this practice on society as a whole.

The Report provides recommendations aimed at ending the practice of profiling where it already exists, improving the monitoring of situations where it is alleged to occur, and preventing incidents of profiling from occurring in the first place. The Report received major media coverage, and on the whole, elicited favourable reaction from the public. Information generated during the inquiry will also be used to inform the Commission’s work towards policy development on the ground of race.

Disability and Education

In October 2003, the Commission released a Consultation Report entitled The Opportunity to Succeed: Achieving Barrier-free Education for Students with Disabilities.

The Report represents an overview of the feedback received from consultees from across the province during the Commission’s consultation in the fall of 2002.  It canvasses human rights issues that arise in the provision of education to students with disabilities at the primary, secondary and post-secondary levels, outlines actions required by parties to the accommodation process and sets out the Commission’s own commitments in this regard.

The Commission is currently developing Guidelines on Accessible Education as a companion document to the Consultation Report. The Guidelines will outline the Commission’s interpretation of the legal responsibilities of all parties to the accommodation process with respect to:  access to education, combating negative attitudes and stereotypes, determining and providing appropriate accommodations, respecting the confidentiality of persons with disabilities, developing a dignified and effective accommodation process, and applying the undue hardship standard.

Aboriginal Human Rights Program

Throughout the 2003-2004 year, the Commission continued its partnership with the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto in conducting the Aboriginal Human Rights Program. The objectives of this program, now in its fourth year of operation, are to create and build on awareness of the Code among people of Aboriginal communities and to enhance their access to the Commission’s services. A human rights coordinator was engaged to provide information and support to individuals experiencing discrimination and assist them with access to the Commission’s complaint process, if required. Three public education activities per month were held in workplaces, schools and community agencies. The Commission will be consulting with community representatives to develop some options for building on what has been learned through the program to date.

Restaurant Accessibility Initiative

In June 2003, the results of an independent accessibility audit of seven restaurant chains prepared for the Commission were shared with Country Style Donuts, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Subway, Swiss Chalet and Tim Hortons.

The audit of four sites per chain demonstrated the nature of barriers that customers with disabilities would face. These included lack of safe pedestrian routes into the restaurant, automatic doors at entrances, lower counter heights at cash registers or self-serve areas, Braille menus, and accessible washroom facilities. 

The Commission believes that rather than addressing barriers on the basis of one human rights complaint at a time, it is far more preferable that businesses make commitments and take steps to achieve inclusive facilities voluntarily and cooperatively.

During the fall, the Chief Commissioner met with representatives from the chains and found their willingness to cooperate and discuss concerns to be very positive. All seven chains made commitments to a process that will eliminate barriers for customers with disabilities.

The Commission’s report on this initiative entitled, Dining Out Accessibly is scheduled for release in April 2004. The Commission plans to seek similar cooperation and commitments from others in the restaurant and hospitality industry. 

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