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OHRC hosts national human rights conference

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June 18, 2008

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For immediate publication

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission was pleased to host this year’s annual conference of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies’ (CASHRA) from June 15th to 17th at Niagara College Niagara-on-the-Lake campus. CASHRA is the association of Canada’s human rights commissions and tribunals, which are charged with administering federal, provincial and territorial human rights legislation. Among others, its goals include fostering collaboration among its members and serving as a national voice on human rights issues of common concern.

Under this year’s theme, Collective Strength: Commission to Communities and Back, the conference sought to identify common goals and opportunities for cooperative exchange and action between commissions and communities on human rights issues of concern across Canada and globally.

Over 200 people attended the conference to share experiences and expertise on a number of key human rights issues ranging from national security and profiling, working with policing services and other public institutions for systemic change, to the ‘reasonable accommodation’ debate as well as Ontario’s transition to a new human rights system.

One of the highlights of the conference was the plenary discussion about the roles of commissions and the media and implications for human rights. Panelists Alan Borovoy, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Wahida Valiente, Canadian Islamic Congress, Mel Sufrin, Ontario Press Council, and Pearl Eliadis, human rights lawyer, engaged in a lively debate on human rights protections and limitations for freedom of expression alongside freedom from discrimination.

Another highlight was an address by Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International, Canada, who spoke on the need for human rights commissions to recognize, promote and integrate Canada’s international human rights obligations into the fabric of their work.

Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall closed the conference emphasizing that the need for human rights protections, and for organizations to ensure those protections, is greater than ever before. She also spoke about the important roles commissions play in promoting, protecting and advancing those rights and the importance of creating a strong culture of human rights in Canada.

To view the conference program, available presentations from speakers or to participate in online discussions related to topics covered at the conference, please visit