A key role of the OHRC is to speak out and take steps to alleviate tension and conflict in communities. Much of this tension first comes to light in media reports. The press also provide an excellent forum for us to speak out on issues affecting all Ontarians. Highlights in the past year include:
- National Post – “Human rights commissions have had their day” (March 6, 2013)
In this letter to the editor, we refuted an editorial that suggested that “racism, sexism and homophobia have become rare in Canadian public life.” We commented that this was clearly not the experience of young Black men or Aboriginal people, or of women who are fired when they get pregnant or of LGBT youth bullied at school. We also spoke about how more than half of all complaints at the HRTO involve discrimination in the workplace against people with disabilities, both physical and mental.
- Thompson Citizen – “Racist and anti-Aboriginal slurs” (February 1, 2013)
In this letter to the editor, we congratulated the Citizen for closing its Facebook page because of a shocking increase in online hatred directed at Aboriginal Peoples. We said their actions help send a strong message that providing a forum for hateful and racist speech is not the way forward, and thanked them for saying no to racism.
- Globe and Mail – “The right to balanced rights” (February 28, 2013)
In this opinion editorial, we talked about the recent N.S. and Whatcott cases at the Supreme Court of Canada, and about our new policy that can help to balance competing rights. We talked about how resolving conflicting rights is easier to do through cooperation, and by having open-minded dialogue.
- Toronto Sun – “White liberal guilt” (May 24, 2012)
In this letter to the editor, we refuted columnist Tarek Fatah’s suggestion that Barbara Hall or anyone else “forced” Toronto Police to allow Khalsa Sikhs to wear kirpans in courtrooms. The settlement here arose from working cooperatively with the Toronto Police Service to balance the religious rights of Khalsa Sikhs and the need to have security at courthouses.
So many people would unthinkingly go to hotels in the South that wouldn’t treat Blacks by the same standards as they treated Whites. And I remember I had somebody write a letter to a whole bunch of Florida hotels, where we knew our readers often went, and asked, “May I bring a Black person with me?” And I published the answers with the names of the hotels. And in case after case, they said yes or no, you may or may not bring your coloured maid. We never said anything about a maid in our letter… And I wound up publishing this stuff. That was one of my earlier projects.
- Alan Borovoy, former General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
No room for your coloured maid