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Stronger actions required to address human rights concerns

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July 4, 2002

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For immediate publication

Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton today released the Year-end results of the Ontario Human Rights Commission for the fiscal year 2001 - 2002.

"This year, we have seen tremendous challenges both globally and locally in the field of human rights," stated Mr. Norton. He added, "Since the adoption of the Human Rights Code forty years ago, Ontario has become one of the most diverse communities in the world and gained international renown as a province of tolerance.  Although we would like to believe that tolerance has become part of our core values, sadly, the reactions to the tragic events of last September 11th underline the need for constant vigilance. We need to continue working hard to advance the recognition of the dignity and worth of every Ontario resident, and to accomplish our common goals, we need the Code and an effective Commission."

In 2001-2002, a total of 2,438 complaints were filed, representing an increase of 663 complaints over the previous year. Out of the 2,438 complaints, disability was cited 1,183 times which means that disability complaints this year make up close to 50% of all complaints filed at the Commission.

In response to this increase, the Chief Commissioner made public a number of initiatives the Commission has been taking to address systemic issues in the area of disability:

  • a review of Building Code;
  • a review of the accessibility of premises and services of major fast food chains in Ontario; and,
  • provincial consultations on disability and education issues as well as the  development guidelines on the accommodation of persons with disabilities in the area of education.

In other areas, the Commission released Time for Action: Advancing Human Rights for Older Ontarians, a document that addresses barriers and prejudices encountered by older Ontarians, published a report on human rights issues in the insurance industry as well as a study of the effect of the intersection of grounds with particular focus on race, and released an updated policy on pregnancy that addresses the issue of breastfeeding. Recently in April 2002, the Commission also launched a consultation report on the accessibility of public transit services in the Province.

During 2001-2002, the Commission resolved 1,932 cases before an interruption by the labour dispute on March 13, 2002, most of them (1,328) in the Mediation Office. The Commission’s current caseload as at March 31, 2002, was 2,300. The Commission continues to reduce the average time required to process a complaint. In the past fiscal year, this time dropped to 12.2 months from 15.4 months in the previous year. The median age of a complaint from opening to a decision is now 8 months.

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François Larsen