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Divergent views signal need for more consultation on strengthening Ontario's human rights system

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October 13, 2005

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For immediate publication

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission released a Consultation Report today called Strengthening Ontario’s Human Rights System: What We Heard. It reflects the feedback of a broad range of individuals and organizations that participated in a critical review of Ontario’s human rights system.

“For a number of years now, I have requested changes to the human rights system to enable it to work more effectively,” remarked Chief Commissioner Keith Norton. “I, therefore, welcome the government’s commitment to improve Ontario’s human rights system.”

“People spoke passionately from different perspectives about the system for protecting human rights in this province but were adamant about wanting further opportunity to provide input and be part of the process for reform,” said Mr. Norton.

The Commission initiated a review of Ontario’s human rights system on August 23, 2005 with the release of a Discussion Paper and questionnaire. The review was intended to clarify the principles and issues that must be considered in any reform of the human rights system. A total of 31 individuals participated in three focus groups and 56 submissions were made in response to the questionnaire.

It is clear from the review that our current human rights system needs strengthening. What is less clear is the best way to accomplish this goal. There was general consensus that a reformed human rights system should be: independent; adequately resourced; harmonized with international obligations; filling a cooperative role in the promotion of human rights; accessible, regardless of disability, financial means, geography, language, culture or other power imbalances; effectively able to address systemic issues; expert and representative; timely; flexible in its approach to human rights complaints; and able to resolve simple cases more easily.

“We must remember that Ontario has an historic reputation of breaking new ground in the area of human rights. With almost half a century of experience in this field, it has offered and continues to offer much nationally as well as internationally. We now have a unique opportunity to build on this reputation and take steps that will ensure a renewed human rights system for the people of Ontario,“ said Norton.

For a copy of the Consultation Report, Strengthening Ontario’s Human Rights System: What We Heard, please visit the Commission’s Web site.

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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