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Message from Ontario Human Rights Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall marking International Human Rights Day

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December 8, 2006

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For immediate publication

“International Human Rights Day reminds us of persisting human rights problems in our communities and in the world, and of the enormous efforts still required to make human rights a reality for all.” - Kofi Annan

Since December 10, 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed by Canada and other member States of the United Nations, Ontario’s human rights system has evolved to be a leader within the global human rights system. All of us have every reason to be proud of that and what we have accomplished.

As we recognize International Human Rights Day, this December 10th, we have much to consider for the year ahead.

The past year was often difficult for us. The decision by the Government of Ontario to reform the way human rights are delivered in our province has produced uncertainty and extensive debate which was often divisive. As a result of this week’s vote in the Legislature we now have a new human rights system. This change brings challenges. But it also brings greater opportunities to achieve the task we share – the eradication of discrimination in our society.

It is my hope that with the Commission’s expanded focus on systemic discrimination and public education we will have the chance to influence and promote the larger, societal changes we all know are needed. We cannot fight discrimination “one case at a time”; that method will only ever address a tiny portion of the unfair practices and attitudes we see every day.

For me, International Human Rights Day underlines what we all have in common. Each of us is committed to improving our community. We share a vision of a fairer, more equitable society, free from discrimination, which recognizes and assists the most vulnerable among us. We all want to move forward – and we can.

I offer my thanks and appreciation to all the individuals and groups who provided their input in recent months. Though we may not have agreed at every point, we have had a chance to share our views and to learn from each other. Now, let us put that knowledge to work, together.

In the coming year I look forward to spending much more time hearing your views, your concerns and your ideas for progress. With a new system in place we will finally plan, together, how best to achieve our shared goals. We have been given the tools and the opportunity to be leaders; we have a responsibility to do just that - lead.

With warm regards,
Barbara Hall , B.A., L.L.B., Ph.D. (hon.)
Chief Commissioner