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Human Rights Commission updates policy to reflect same-sex marriage rights

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March 16, 2006

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For immediate publication

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) has released an updated version of its Policy on Discrimination and Harassment because of Sexual Orientation, Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall announced today.

“Discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation have no place in our society,” said Chief Commissioner Hall. “The Commission’s updated policy stresses the positive obligations individuals and organizations have to respect, protect, and promote the rights of gays and lesbians.”

The policy was originally approved by the Commission in January 2000, and was the result of considerable stakeholder consultation. The updated policy reflects the significant court decisions and legislative changes since that time, notably the March 2005 amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code, which, following the Supreme Court of Canada decision on same sex marriage, expanded the ground of marital status to include same-sex relationships.

The updated policy considers that individuals often face unique discrimination based on a combination of personal characteristics and stereotypes. For example, an Ontario human rights tribunal found that a gay man who took sick leave from his job was discriminated against when he was subjected to rumours that it was because he had AIDS.

The updated policy also discusses subtle and systemic discrimination, and clarifies the responsibility of organizations to address human rights concerns. For example, in 2005, the British Columbia Court of Appeal found that a North Vancouver school district had failed to take sufficient steps to stop a repeating pattern of homophobic harassment. Because of this case, the school board instituted comprehensive anti-harassment policies and programs, taking a strict zero-tolerance approach to the subject. Finally, the policy outlines best practices organizations may use to better prevent and respond to discrimination in their workplaces.

For more information on the Commission’s policies and work, 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