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Commission defines connection between human rights and family relationships

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May 2, 2007

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For immediate publication

Toronto - Today the Ontario Human Rights Commission released the results of its groundbreaking initiative on discrimination based on family status. “Ontario is proud to be the first jurisdiction to examine the human rights implications of barriers faced by families who are caring for children, aging parents or relatives, and family members with disabilities”, said Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner.

The Cost of Caring: Report on the Consultation on Discrimination on the Basis of Family Status and the Policy and Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Family Status highlight the results of the Commission’s public consultation on family status, and provide employers, landlords and service providers with guidance on rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”). During the consultation, the Commission heard that caregivers are often at a significant disadvantage in accessing employment, housing and services. With changes to family structures such as the aging population, the movement of women into the paid workforce, and increasing numbers of lone-parent families, family caregivers find themselves under increasing pressure. Workplaces have been slow to adapt to the changing realities of the family. “We hear about the competing pressures in people’s daily lives everywhere – work-life balance issues. We are seeing a growing need among employees for workplace accommodation. That is why the Commission is presenting a new policy framework to help workplaces meet their responsibilities and recognize family status as a human rights issue”, added Chief Commissioner Hall.

Currently, the Code prohibits discrimination because of family status, but its application is limited to situations where the individual experiencing discrimination is in a parent-child relationship. This definition does not protect, for example, an individual who is caring for a brother or sister living with a disability or an aging aunt or grandparent. As well, extended families such as those in some Aboriginal and racialized communities, the broad support networks of persons with disabilities, and families developed by gays, lesbians and bisexuals may not be recognized or may be treated as less valid. And, even in situations that meet the ground of family status, awareness of rights and responsibilities is low: for example, in housing, families with children are frequently turned away because of “adult only” rental policies.

For more information on these kinds of issues, please visit the Commission website. 

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Afroze Edwards
Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management
(416) 314-4528

Jeff Poirier
Senior Policy Analyst
Policy Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch (PEMO)
Ontario Human Rights Commission