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Canadian Commission for UNESCO's "call for a coalition of cities against racism" receives support from Ontario's Human Rights Commission

March 11, 2005

Toronto - The Canadian Commission for UNESCO and Ontario’s Human Rights Commission announced today that they and other partners are setting up a working group of government and non-government organizations to develop and promote a proposal to Call for a Canadian Coalition of Cities Against Racism. Other partners include the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Metropolis Project.

Chief Commissioner comments on Bill 118, the proposed "Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act"

February 23, 2005

Toronto - I welcome this opportunity to provide comments on Bill 118, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In the spring of last year, the Ontario Human Rights Commission ("the Commission") provided a written submission to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s public consultation on strengthening the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. As I believe that the comments of the Commission at that time remain relevant in considering Bill 118, I take this opportunity to provide it to you for your review. Having reviewed Bill 118, there are some points from this submission to which I would like to particularly draw your attention, as I believe they may be helpful to you.

Human Rights Commission reaches accessibility settlement with Mattamy Homes

February 14, 2005

Toronto - The home buyer, who uses a wheelchair, was purchasing a new home from the builder, but required a number of alterations to the standard design in order to make the premises accessible. There was an issue as to whether the builder’s policies and procedures appropriately considered accessibility changes upfront either in the contract of purchase and sale, or in the floor plan drawings. This would mean that a home buyer would have to first purchase the standard home, and then meet with a design consultant to discuss potential alterations, with no assurances that the home could be made accessible. The complaint was neither investigated nor referred to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for a hearing. Rather, Mattamy Homes decided to resolve the issue in a direct and positive manner.

Letter to Ontario's Attorney General expressing concern about allowing public officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples

December 20, 2004

Toronto - I am writing to express concern over recent comments attributed to the Honourable Irwin Cotler urging provinces to allow public officials who are licensed to perform marriage ceremonies to refuse to perform this service for same-sex couples. As you know, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) intervened in the Same Sex Marriage Reference before the Supreme Court of Canada to protect the right of gay and lesbian Canadians to get married. In this regard, the Commission agreed with the Attorney General of Canada’s position that requiring a religious official to perform a marriage ceremony that does not accord with his or her religious beliefs about marriage would violate section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”).

Ontario Human Rights Commission takes further action to aid students with disabilities

November 30, 2004

Toronto - Following through on its commitment to help educational institutions, teachers, and parents better understand the duty to accommodate students with disabilities in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton announced the release of Guidelines on Accessible Education today.

Human Rights Complaints settled against the Ministry of transportation, City of Hamilton and DARTS

November 25, 2004

Toronto - A settlement has been reached between two Complainants with disabilities, the Ministry of Transportation, the City of Hamilton, and the Disabled and Aged Regional Transit System(“DARTS”), a transit service for persons with disabilities provided by the City of Hamilton.

Ten restaurant chains commit to improve accessibility

November 19, 2004

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission today announced that another ten restaurant chains have voluntarily committed to a process that will eliminate barriers for customers with disabilities. They include: Burger King, Coffee Time Donuts, Harvey’s, Kelsey’s Neighbourhood Bar and Grill, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Montana’s Cookhouse and Milestones, Pizza Pizza, Red Lobster, Taco Bell and Timothy’s World Coffee. The Commission is still negotiating similar commitments with another eight chains.

Chief Commissioner commends government's consultation on mandatory retirement

October 21, 2004

Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton of the Ontario Human Rights Commission today praised the government’s consultations on the issue of mandatory retirement. "The Ministry’s initiative is a welcome step in the right direction. Older workers should be judged on their ability to perform a job, and not have to leave their work just because they reach a certain age," stated Chief Commissioner Keith Norton.

Commission to implement new self-draft complaint process

September 29, 2004

Toronto - Beginning this October 1st, the Ontario Human Rights Commission will implement a new process for self-drafting of human rights complaints. Under the old process, complainants were required to fill out a 7-page questionnaire in order to file a complaint. Close to 50% of the intake questionnaires sent to complainants were never returned. In the new self drafting process, individuals will be asked to provide the particulars of their allegations directly onto a 4-page complaint form. This new approach will speed up the processing of complaints and give individuals more control over their complaint.

Statement by Chief Commissioner Keith C. Norton regarding the implementation of self-drafted complaints at the Ontario Human Rights Commission

September 1, 2004

Toronto - This October, the Ontario Human Rights Commission will be implementing a new process for self-drafted human rights complaints. I am taking this opportunity to explain the background for this decision, why it is being implemented and what it entails.

Commission restates concerns about potential discrimination arising from Ontario's "Safe Schools Act"

May 14, 2004

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission has asked the Toronto District School Board and Ontario’s Ministry of Education to recognize that "zero tolerance" disciplinary legislation and related school board policies may be having a discriminatory effect on racialized students and students with disabilities.

Seven restaurant chains make landmark commitment to improve services for customers with disabilities

April 6, 2004

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission today announced that seven chains, Country Style Donuts, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Subway, Swiss Chalet and Tim Hortons have made commitments to a process that will eliminate barriers for customers with disabilities. This result was obtained after the Commission shared the results of an independent accessibility audit with the chains.

Ontario Human Rights Commission sends 121 complaints to public

March 2, 2004

Toronto - At its meeting on January 28, 2004, the Commission decided to refer an unprecedented 121 autism-related complaints to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The complaints against various Government of Ontario ministries allege discrimination on the basis of disability in accessing services. The Commission has referred the complaints based on the restrictive eligibility criteria for funding support and long waiting lists for a government program.

"Paying The Price: The Human Cost Of Racial Profiling": Ontario Human Rights Commission releases report

December 9, 2003

Toronto - "Racial profiling has no place in our society. We have to stop debating the issue and start acting on it," was the key message delivered today by Chief Commissioner Keith Norton at the release of the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s report on the effects of racial profiling. Entitled, Paying the Price: The Human Cost of Racial Profiling, the Report is based on over 400 personal accounts of experiences with profiling that individuals shared with the Commission during the course of its Racial Profiling Inquiry held earlier this year. The Report looks at the human cost of racial profiling on individuals who have experienced it, their families and their communities and the detrimental impacts of this practice on society as a whole.

Ontario Human Rights Commission partners with Shoppers Drug Mart and CARP, Canada's Association for the Fifty-Plus, to promote human rights for older persons

July 25, 2003

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission today launched a public awareness campaign to counteract myths and stereotypes about older persons, in partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart and CARP, Canada’s Association for the Fifty-Plus.

Chief Commissioner commends plans to allow flexibility and choice in retirement

May 30, 2003

Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton of the Ontario Human Rights Commission today praised the government's move to act on providing more flexibility and choice in the area of retirement. This is consistent with the Commission's recommendation made in June 2001 for Ontario workers aged 65 or older. "The Bill introduced by the government yesterday respecting the age of retirement is significant and a step in the right direction. For some older workers, maintaining or even obtaining employment can have profound implications on their sense of worth, their dignity and their economic security. They should be judged on their ability to perform a job, and not have to leave their work just because they reach a certain age," stated Chief Commissioner Keith Norton, adding that, "Although the Bill provides for a transition period until January 1, 2005, it does not prevent any forward-looking employer and bargaining agent from implementing the provisions before that date."

Commission gives progress report on its racial profiling initiative

March 21, 2003

Toronto - On this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton announced that he is very satisfied with the response and the support the Commission has received for its racial profiling initiative, stating that, "I am now more convinced than ever that this was an appropriate way to deal with this issue. Since the inquiry’s launch on February 17th, 2003, the Commission has received over 800 contacts. While not all of the contacts fit the parameters of the inquiry, the feedback has exceeded our expectations in terms of both quality and quantity."

Human Rights Commission to hear personal accounts of racial profiling

February 17, 2003

Toronto - Following up on a commitment made in December to take action on racial profiling, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton today announced plans to hold an inquiry into this activity. "Racial profiling in any context is wrong. We are concerned about the negative impacts of this practice on individuals and entire communities," stated Mr. Norton. "To address the issue, the Commission has worked closely with community partners and this initiative is a result of that cooperative effort," he further added. Over the next two weeks, interested individuals who believe that they have been profiled are invited to talk about that experience with the Commission and relate the repercussions that the incident has had on their lives and their outlook towards society.

Ontario Human Rights Commission takes action on racial profiling

December 9, 2002

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission will hold an inquiry into the effects of racial profiling on communities, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton announced today on the eve of International Human Rights Day. After meeting with community leaders, the Chief Commissioner noted that a measure of the human cost of profiling has been missing from the public debate. "There is a need to gauge the impact of this inappropriate practice. This is not another study on racism or an investigation of the police services, rather it is an opportunity for the Commission to look into the effects of profiling, in all its contexts, on individuals, families and communities. The inquiry will reach out to communities across the province."

Commission calls for increased vigilance

September 10, 2002

Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton today reiterated a call for increased vigilance and the need to strike a balance between protecting human rights and maintaining public security. Reflecting on the first anniversary of the tragic events of last September 11th, Mr. Norton stated, "Although we would like to believe that tolerance has become part of our core values, regrettably, incidents of hate and discrimination towards certain community members of our society in the aftermath of last year’s events underline an ongoing need for vigilance."

Stronger actions required to address human rights concerns

July 4, 2002

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."

Advancing Human Rights for older persons

June 13, 2002

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission today released its Policy on Discrimination against Older Persons because of Age. This document provides an in-depth look at age discrimination as it relates to present protections in the Human Rights Code. The Policy was developed to help the public and Commission staff to gain a better understanding of how the Code protects older Ontarians and to sensitize them to the issues faced by these persons. It also aims to raise awareness among service providers, employers and landlords of their obligations under the Code.

Ontario Human Rights Commission releases Consultation Report on human rights and public transit service in Ontario

April 22, 2002

Toronto - There is a legal obligation under the Ontario Human Rights Code for equal access to public transit services without discrimination based on prohibited grounds, yet persons with disabilities, older persons and families with young children face difficulties in accessing transit on a daily basis. Human Rights and Public Transit Services in Ontario summarizes the input received from transit providers, seniors' organizations, disability consumers groups, advocacy groups and individuals during the Ontario Human Rights Commission's consultation on public transit. The report was released today at the Ontario Transportation Expo Conference and Trade Show in Toronto.

Insurance industry urged to avoid using enumerated grounds of discrimination and genetic testing information for measuring risk

February 14, 2002

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission today released a report on consultations it conducted on human rights issues in insurance. In accordance with the Commission's mandate, the objective of the consultation was to promote awareness, understanding and advancement of human rights in the area of insurance and to examine alternatives to current practices by obtaining input from experts and regulators in the insurance industry as well as from consumers. Access to insurance in our society raises significant issues about distributive justice and fairness in the public sphere, issues that have received scant attention in Canada and in Ontario.

Ontario Human Rights Commission regrets Famous Players decision to close theatres

December 11, 2001

Toronto - Reacting to an implementation plan submitted by Famous Players Theatres in accordance with an earlier decision by a Board of Inquiry, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton stated, "The fact that Famous Players has decided to close the three theatres affected by the Board order well ahead of the deadlines set out by the Board, suggests that this decision is economically motivated. I am disappointed by this decision as it deprives local moviegoers from accessing services at these theatres. Clearly, the closings are based on economic reasons and not related to the decision of the Board."

Ruling in Famous Players Theatres case a victory for Ontarians

September 25, 2001

Toronto - In a recent ruling by a Board of Inquiry (Human Rights), Famous Players Theatres has been ordered to make three of its theatres accessible to persons with disabilities. The theatres to be upgraded are the Uptown, Backstage and Eglinton. The Plaza was also named in the group of inaccessible theatres in the complaint, but Famous Players Theatres chose not to renew its lease.

"Compassion, justice and a renewal of our pledge against hatred should mark this day of mourning", says Chief Commissioner Keith Norton

September 14, 2001

Toronto - Commenting on the horrible tragedy of September 11th, the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Mr Keith Norton, issued a call to civic, religious and community leaders "to jointly take leadership in the fight against hatred and to be vigilant against any backlash which might be directed against innocent persons or communities. It is surely time for a show of solidarity, especially among our major religious groups, to affirm that acts of violence motivated by hate are not justified by the teachings of any faith."

Ontario Human Rights Commission releases action plan for protecting human rights of older Ontarians

June 28, 2001

Toronto - Today, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton released Time for Action: Advancing Human Rights of Older Ontarians, a report that summarizes and reviews input received from individuals, government and community organizations across Ontario during the Commission's consultation on age discrimination.

Ontario Human Rights Commission achieves a current caseload

May 17, 2001

Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton today released the Ontario Human Rights Commission's year-end results for the fiscal year 2000-2001. In speaking about the Commission's major accomplishments for the year, Mr. Norton stated that, "Five years ago, when I began my first term as Chief Commissioner, I identified a current caseload as a top priority. I am pleased to report that we have accomplished this important goal."

Commission takes action on disability rights: Sends six Hamilton transit cases to public hearing

March 29, 2001

Toronto - Today the Ontario Human Rights Commission sent six disability cases to a Board of Inquiry, challenging the lack of accessibility of transit services in Hamilton, Ontario. The complaints are against the Disabled and Aged Regional Transit System (DARTS), the City of Hamilton, the Ministry of Transportation and the Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth.

Commission initiates complaints against the Ministry of Health and West Park Healthcare Centre over restrictive access to assistive devices

March 29, 2001

Toronto - Following a promise made last week to be more proactive when it comes to issues faced by persons with disabilities, the Ontario Human Rights Commission today initiated complaints against the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and its contractor, West Park Healthcare Centre. The complaints cite allegations that the Ministry of Health is acting in breach of the Human Rights Code by funding a program that uses discriminatory age-based eligibility criteria in providing assistive devices.

Ontario Human Rights Commission urges Famous Players to provide financial data

March 8, 2001

Toronto - Reacting to misinformation in recent media coverage of a case involving Famous Players theatres, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton stated that, "There is a pressing need to give some balance to the information that has been provided to the public. I regret having to take the extraordinary step of commenting on a complaint that has not yet been decided on by the Board of Inquiry."