On March 28, 2011, the Attorney General for Ontario, the Hon. Chris Bentley spoke in the Ontario Legislature to mark the 50th anniversary of the OHRC.
For a half-century now, the Commission has played an important role in upholding Ontario’s commitment to human rights, and since the system was transformed in 2008, the Commission has continued to help prevent discrimination and promote and advance human rights through partnerships, consultation, education and policy development. By working with individuals, groups, institutions and employers across the province, the Commission encourages respectful dialogue that helps bring people and communities together to resolve issues of tension and conflict.
50 years earlier, at first reading of the bill that created the Commission, then-Premier Leslie Frost spoke of the development of Ontario’s human rights legislation.
No doubt, when these steps were taken, there were some misgivings, based on a fear that such unique laws would not work. But they have worked because they are in harmony with the thinking of our people...
In order to strengthen the educational arm of our programme, the Ontario anti-discrimination commission will be renamed the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This name, I think, is more in keeping with the great purpose which we all have in mind. This will be in line with the positive approach to human rights which encompasses all of the people of Ontario.
Human rights are the foundation of an inclusive, successful society and a thriving economy. The barriers produced by discrimination stop progress; they humiliate people, prevent them from contributing to the level of their ability or aspirations and may lead to tension, conflict and discord.
The Government of Ontario has emphasized the need to identify and deal with the root causes of discrimination. The OHRC has focused its priorities and organizational structure to achieve our vision: an Ontario in which everyone is valued, treated with dignity and respect, and where human rights are nurtured by us all.
To do that, the OHRC continues to develop leading-edge human rights policy. We research, investigate, monitor and report on discrimination. We share our knowledge and guidance through public education and outreach programs designed to make the fight against inequity and intolerance a common responsibility. By bringing partners in the community together we are raising awareness of problems – and of solutions.
“[T]hings which were accepted and perhaps appeared to be commonplace in other days are today becoming more unacceptable and more objectionable to a very large segment of our people, indeed to all our people.” - Hon. Leslie Frost in the Ontario Legislature, February 14, 1961
Setting our priorities
For the past three years, the OHRC has done extensive work with schools, the police and Aboriginal people in Ontario on racism and hate. We added new priority areas, including housing and mental health and continued to monitor and advise on new legislation and regulations. Over the next three years, we will expand our work on discrimination against children with special needs at school and discrimination in employment.