Hon. Yasir Naqvi
Attorney General of Ontario
McMurtry-Scott Building 11th Floor
720 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 2S9
Dear Minister Naqvi:
RE: Support for Bill 164, Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2017
I am writing to express the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) support for Bill 164, which was introduced on October 4, 2017 in the Legislature. We understand that the Second Reading will take place on October 26.
As I expressed in our meeting on October 2, it is the OHRC’s position that Bill 164 improves the Human Rights Code by including new grounds of protection for people under social condition, police records, genetic characteristics, and immigration status. We issued a public statement supporting the Bill the day after it was introduced (http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-supports-bill-improve-human-rights-code).
While we support the entirety of the Bill, it is our view that the addition of social condition will significantly strengthen human rights protection for the most marginalized and vulnerable Ontarians, including individuals with precarious employment, low income, or people who are homeless. One of our Strategic Plan priorities is to gain explicit protection under the Code for people who experience poverty, hunger and homelessness; Bill 164 is consistent with this commitment.
During our consultations with approximately 300 people representing 80 community groups, we heard that poverty undermines human rights security in all areas of life, including housing, access to health care and other social services, and access to employment. We note that community organizations serving vulnerable and marginalized people have publicly signalled their support for Bill 164, including the Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, and the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/10/19/ontario-bill-with-vast-human-rights-protections-at-risk-of-dying.html).
The proposed amendments are consistent with Canada and Ontario’s international human rights obligations, especially in relation to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Notably, the OHRC and UN human rights bodies have long called for the inclusion of social condition in the Code. The changes would also bring our province in line with other jurisdictions across the country (for example, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, and Quebec).
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss this matter further. In keeping with the OHRC’s commitment to public accountability and its duties in serving the people of Ontario, this letter will be made public.
Yours very truly,
Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
Ontario Human Rights Commission
cc: OHRC Commissioners
Bill 164: We've expressed our support for amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code in a letter to Minister Naqvi. Read it online and share with your network: https://t.co/7ZzIS7qnpQ pic.twitter.com/GLWDMrhdOy
— The OHRC (@OntHumanRights) October 26, 2017