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A new year, a new home for refugees arriving in Ontario - A message from Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane

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January 7, 2016

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As the new year unfolds, Ontario continues to open its doors to refugees fleeing the war in Syria. The Ontario Human Rights Commission offers our welcome and support to all newcomers – from Syria, countries in Africa, and other parts of the world.

Ontario’s Human Rights Code offers protection to everyone in Ontario, regardless of their immigration status. Ontario has a vision of inclusion and diversity, and the Code protects and promotes this vision. It is important for all newcomers to understand that the Code protects them the moment they arrive in the province.

The Code prohibits discrimination or harassment based on 17 different personal characteristics such as religion, race, sex and gender, colour, and place of origin. These protections apply in five “social areas” covering where we live, work, learn, and get services like at stores, at the doctor’s office, or in interactions with police.

Newcomers already face many challenges when arriving in Canada: for most, the priority is finding housing and a decent job. The OHRC is working with community groups to make sure that stereotypes and discrimination do not pose a barrier to people putting a roof over their head or food on the table.

We are in the preliminary stages of an exciting new partnership with OCASI, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, NCCM – the National Council of Canadian Muslims – and the Canadian Arab Institute. These groups are already working on education campaigns and programs to make sure that our welcome of Syrian refugees includes reminders to landlords, employers and service providers of their obligation to not discriminate because of religion or place of origin.

We look forward to welcoming more refugees to Ontario in the coming months, and to helping to create a climate where everyone can contribute and belong.

Please help us spread our message of inclusion through social media. For example, you can tweet:

Newcomers have a right to a roof over head & food on the table. Stop discrimination! Read & share: http://bit.ly/1JXSbQ3 #RefugeesWelcome

Renu Mandhane, J.D., LL.M
Chief Commissioner
Ontario Human Rights Commission