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Human rights commissions: Future directions

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On February 28, 2000, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Foundation held a one-day Policy Dialogue session: Human Rights Commissions: Future Directions. The objectives of the session were:

  • To hold a high level dialogue on social trends and international developments relating to human rights commissions and to examine the impact of these trends and developments on the role of human rights commissions in Canada and in civil society.
  • To identify international trends and developments that may assist Canadian human rights commissions to respond better to societal changes in Canada.
  • To consider the relationship between human rights institutions, such as human rights commissions, and government and civil society.
  • To provide a forum for discussion on future directions for human rights commissions in Canada.
  • To generate strategies for human rights commissions and to identify priorities for future follow-up.

As we begin the new millennium, it is an ideal time to consider the role of human rights institutions in a broader context. It is important for human rights institutions and those who work in the area to identify the issues that are facing human rights commissions and to develop strategies that will allow them to play a greater role in the protection and promotion of human rights. International standards and notions of the interdependence and indivisibility of human rights are vital considerations in this exercise. The lessons from other countries are especially useful in helping Canadian institutions address the challenges of the future.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Foundation partnered together in organizing this session to begin a co-operative process in which human rights institutions and civil society work together to identify issues, developments and challenges in the field of human rights and to generate strategies for the future. The session brought together a diverse range of Canadian stakeholders. Among the issues identified during the Policy Dialogue, two were presented as particularly relevant to human rights dialogue today: the protection of social and economic rights and the ability of the traditional complaints based model, used by human rights commissions in Canada, to address broader issues of a systemic nature. The session identified some major priorities for follow-up and generated a preliminary list of practical suggestions for future action.

Human Rights Commissions: Future Directions
Toronto, Ontario
February 28, 2000

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