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New human rights policy to modernize struggle against racism in Ontario

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June 28, 2005

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For immediate publication

Toronto - “It is time organizations and institutions acknowledge the reality of racism and be prepared to act against subtle and sometimes subconscious prejudices and stereotypes that too often result in discrimination”, said Keith Norton, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission today as he announced the release of the Commission’s Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination.

“While Ontario has done much to provide protection against racism and racial discrimination, the fact remains that too many Ontarians continue to experience it,” Mr Norton told an audience of community leaders, officials and individuals this morning. Each year 30% to 40% of complaints filed with the Commission cite race and related grounds. 

Building on its recent examination into the effects of racial profiling, the Commission’s policy focuses particularly on systemic discrimination.  The Commission has found it is one of the more complex ways in which racial discrimination occurs.  Systemic discrimination refers to patterns of behaviour, policies or practices that are part of the social or administrative structures of an organization, which create or perpetuate a position of relative disadvantage for racialized persons.   

“Organizations have a positive obligation to ensure they are not engaging in, condoning or allowing systemic racial discrimination and harassment to occur ,” remarked Mr. Norton.  Obligations in this regard range from collecting numerical data in appropriate circumstances, accounting for historical disadvantage, reviewing policies, practices and decision-making processes for adverse impact on Aboriginal and racialized communities to having in place and enforcing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and education programs, and more. 

The Policy provides much needed guidance to the public concerning their rights and responsibilities under the Code. It describes a number of considerations the Commission will use to examine whether discrimination has occurred and stresses the importance of building an organizational culture of prevention and respect for human rights. It will also enable the Commission to take a consistent approach to mediating, investigating, analyzing and litigating cases citing race and related grounds, as well as pursue public interest remedies aimed at correcting systemic discrimination and historical disadvantage in settlements and in decisions before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

To get a copy of the Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination, please visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission 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