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The Commission and the Human Rights Code

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The Ontario Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) is an independent, arm's length agency of the provincial government. Canada’s oldest commission, it was established in 1961 to protect, promote, and advance human rights, as set out in Ontario’s Human Rights Code (the “Code”). The Commission has broad functions and powers under the Code and acts independently on behalf of the public interest.

The Code sets out the right of individuals in Ontario to be free from discrimination in the social areas of employment; housing accommodation; goods, services and facilities; contracts; and membership in vocational associations and trade unions. These protections relate to fifteen prohibited grounds: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed (religion), sex (including gender identity, pregnancy and breastfeeding), sexual orientation, disability, age (18 and older, or 16 and older in housing), marital status (including same-sex partners), family status, receipt of public assistance (in accommodation only) and record of offences (in employment only).

Promoting and Protecting the Public Interest

Through its work, the Commission represents the public interest in the protection, promotion and advancement of human rights. Both in proactive and cooperative projects, and in resolving or litigating Commission-initiated and individual complaints, the Commission consistently seeks and obtains commitments from organizations relating to matters such as:

  • internal policies and complaint mechanisms to address discrimination, accommodation, and harassment
  • training programs on human rights issues and policies
  • data collection, monitoring and reporting obligations to identify problems and track progress
  • appointment of monitors or hiring of consultants to ensure that the remedies are carried out

When Ontario organizations make commitments such as these, they help to create a culture of human rights, eliminate systemic discrimination and prevent harassment and discrimination from occurring in the future.

The Commissioners are appointed through the Lieutenant Governor in Council, and come from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, reflecting the diversity of the population they serve. Each brings experience and human rights expertise to decision-making, and provides leadership in setting the direction and promoting the work of the Commission.

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