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Celebrating 50 years of rights - Jean Augustine

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Excerpts from a speech at the unveiling of the Human Rights Code commemorative plaque, June 15, 2012…

I remember June 15, 1962 when the Code was signed becoming the first legislation of its kind in Canada – equal rights and freedom from discrimination enshrined in law!!

Do you hear this?

You – who told me that despite the fact that I was qualified and passed the test that I was not a “good fit” for your company.

Do you now understand that you cannot openly say, “This apartment is for rent, but not to you.”!

When I came to Canada in the early 1960s, life in Ontario was not as it is today. There were many barriers, prejudices and discriminatory practices that thankfully have deteriorated through the passage and implementation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

In our busy lives, we take for granted the freedoms and respect for human rights that we enjoy. We should not forget that today, people from all over the world are struggling to attain basic rights in the face of authoritarian regimes.

As Ontario’s Fairness Commissioner, my office oversees the licensing of 40 regulatory bodies for Ontario professions. My mandate is to ensure that registration practices are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.

In many ways, my role parallels many of the tenets of the Ontario Human Rights Code as I want to ensure that all qualified professionals in Ontario (regardless of where they obtained their credentials) from another province or another country are treated fairly.

Yes, it was 50 years ago, but we know that human rights are a work in progress, and we need to be vigilant to ensure our rights are not violated.

This historical plaque (taking its place with other historical markers) will serve as a reminder to all our Ontarians, especially our youth that we all agreed in 1962 that rights and freedoms needed to be enshrined in law.

Thank you Ontario Heritage Trust for this commemoration!

Thank you Ontario Human Rights Commission for the beacon you are! Our province and all of us are all the better for it!

Hon. Jean Augustine, PC, CM, Fairness Commissioner