We heard about the different types of intersecting discrimination occurring because of race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, ancestry, colour or creed, in addition to mental health disabilities and/or addictions. We were told how perceptions about people’s disabilities can contribute to negative perceptions based on race in different ways.
Race and related grounds
Under the Code, every person has the right to be free from racial discrimination and harassment in the social areas of employment, services, goods, facilities, housing accommodation, contracts and membership in trade and vocational associations. You should not be treated differently because of your race or other related grounds, such as your ancestry, ethnicity, religion or place of origin.
Canada, its provinces and territories have strong human rights laws and systems in place to address discrimination. At the same time, we also have a legacy of racism – particularly towards Indigenous persons, but to other groups as well including African, Chinese, Japanese, South Asian, Jewish and Muslim Canadians – a legacy that profoundly permeates our systems and structures to this day, affecting the lives of not only racialized persons, but also all people in Canada.
From Remembrance to Reconciliation
The OHRC provides tools and approaches that individuals, organizations and sectors across Ontario can use in their own efforts to advance human rights. But the need to understand human rights extends beyond employers and the provincial government. Local governments make decisions on issues ranging from child care to public transit – in fact, they provide many of the direct services in our communities. The rules they set and the services they provide can have a major impact on human rights.
Many municipalities have First Nations populations that border the municipality or visit the municipality for services such as health care, education and business. Other municipalities have large urban Aboriginal populations within the community. Aboriginal people have historically experienced significant racism and discrimination. To address their unique historical experience as part of anti-racism and anti-discrimination work requires recognition of their unique history and status in Canada.
Some long identified human rights issues have been very slow to change. The discrimination faced by Aboriginal peoples continues, and is hugely damaging. Informing Aboriginal peoples about their human rights is a first step, while the OHRC builds relationships to exchange information and learn.
In the past year, the OHRC has:
Many organizations and individuals spoke of how Aboriginal Peoples in Canada have been affected by a long history of colonization, institutionalized racism and discrimination, such as the residential school policies. The Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC) said that for the urban Aboriginal population, this has led to intergenerational trauma, family violence, poverty, homelessness, lack of education and incarceration. All of these have serious negative impacts on people’s mental health.
Ontarians have been shocked by a number of violent incidents involving Asian Canadians who have been physically and verbally assaulted while fishing in several communities around the province. Racial slurs have been associated with a number of assaults.