After extensive conversations with nearly 300 people representing over 80 community organizations, the OHRC released our five-year Strategic Plan, Putting people and their rights at the centre: Building human rights accountability in December 2016.
We were urged to use our unique mandate to address anti-Black racism, Indigenous reconciliation, Islamophobia, the rights of children and youth, and persistent discrimination in employment and in the criminal justice system. People called on us to get at the root of much of today’s inequality: the ever-present risk of poverty faced by people with disabilities, people with diverse gender identities, and many others the Code is meant to protect.
As our society becomes even more diverse, the lived reality of people with privilege and power is easily contrasted against people who continually find themselves on the margins. Today, the voices of people who were once silent (or silenced) have grown louder in their demands for a more just society – and not tomorrow or sometime in the future, but today.
We’re one of three pillars
The OHRC is one of three pillars that together promote, advance and enforce the human rights of all Ontarians. The other pillars are:
A bold voice
Our new strategic plan positions the OHRC as a bold voice on critical and emerging human rights issues, and as an institution that will use its functions and powers to make sure that people and their human rights are at the very centre of the decisions we make as a society.
Through a focus on reconciliation, the criminal justice system, poverty and education, we will address the discriminatory impacts of broader systems of colonialism, state power, resource allocation, and enculturation – which cause nearly all Code-protected groups, especially those with intersectional identities, to be marginalized and to have their disadvantage exacerbated or perpetuated.
Beyond our substantive areas of focus, we will aspire to be transformative in our approach. We will focus on our people, our community, developing evidence-informed approaches, and delivering practical advice.
We will continue to be a leadership voice across the full range of issues that fall within our mandate, and will retain capacity to address critical and emerging issues across all Code grounds and social areas.
These foundational strengths are the core – they will allow us to grow, learn, reflect and work towards our vision of an inclusive society where everyone takes responsibility for promoting and protecting human rights; where everyone is valued and treated with equal dignity and respect; and where everyone’s human rights are a lived reality.
The OHRC’s Strategic Plan aims to put people at the centre of key decisions we make as a society. It outlines a framework for dealing with human rights issues in four strategic focus areas.
We commit to:
- Embody human rights through reconciliation
- Enforce human rights in the criminal justice system
- Advance human rights by addressing poverty
- Promote a human rights culture through education.
Four strategic focus areas
We will concentrate our proactive efforts on four strategic focus areas:
- Reconciliation: We will embody human rights by engaging in sustained trusting relationships with Indigenous communities that are built on dignity and respect, and by working to advance reconciliation and substantive equality.
- Criminal justice system: We will enforce human rights and reduce systemic discrimination by seeking accountability in the criminal justice system.
- Poverty: We will advance the field of human rights law by making clear how systemic discrimination causes and sustains poverty, and addressing poverty within a human rights framework.
- Education: We will promote and strengthen a human rights culture in Ontario that encompasses both rights and responsibilities, with a special focus on educating children and youth and addressing systemic discrimination in our education system.
This year’s annual report reflects the OHRC’s work related to our new strategic plan – and the results we are already seeing.
We envision an inclusive society where everyone takes responsibility for promoting and protecting human rights; where everyone is valued and treated with equal dignity and respect; and where everyone’s human rights are a lived reality.
We believe that the way to realize this vision is to activate and engage the full range of our functions and powers under the Ontario Human Rights Code and our institutional expertise to dismantle the complex, intersecting dynamics and conditions that foster and perpetuate systemic discrimination.
Our mission is to promote and enforce human rights, to engage in relationships that embody the principles of dignity and respect, and to create a culture of human rights compliance and accountability. We act as a driver for social change based on principles of substantive equality. We accomplish our mission by exposing, challenging and ending entrenched and widespread structures and systems of discrimination through education, policy development, public inquiries and litigation.
Meeting and speaking directly with communities across Ontario is an important part of making sure our voice reflects the lived experience of people in the community. Chief Commissioner Mandhane made 40 presentations across Ontario in 2016-2017. These ranged from keynote addresses to speaking on panels to appearing via video. Here are some examples:
- Keynote address, Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (street checks, 50 attendees)
- Keynote address, Association of Native Child and Family Services Agencies of Ontario (Indigenous child welfare issues, 300 attendees)
- Panelist, Elizabeth Fry Reclaiming Advocacy Conference (solitary confinement, 200 attendees)
- Panelist, Canadian Institute (policing, street checks, 75 attendees)
- Keynote address, Ontario Association of Community Legal Clinics (access to justice, role of community partners, 150 attendees)
- Keynote address, Ontario Educators Conference (sexual orientation, gender identity, 250 attendees)
- Keynote address, OPSEU Human Rights Conference (we’re all responsible for human rights, 80 attendees).
Engaging on social media @OntHumanRights
The OHRC continues to have – and offer the community – an influential voice on social media. In 2015-2016, we had over 10,500 English and over 330 French followers on Twitter, and averaged 167,000 Twitter impressions per month. OHRC Chief Commissioner Mandhane is also active on Twitter, engaging directly with the public daily.