April 2014 - Over the years, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has taken steps to address discrimination because of gender identity. In 1999, the OHRC released “Toward a Commission Policy on Gender Identity” for public comment. In 2000, the OHRC released its first Policy on discrimination and harassment because of gender identity, taking the position that the ground of “sex” could be interpreted to include gender identity. Following the release of this policy, the OHRC continued to call for explicit recognition of gender identity as a protected ground in Ontario”s Human Rights Code.
Backgrounders and research
September 2013 - The OHRC is currently updating its 1996 Policy on creed. The goal is to clarify the OHRC’s interpretation of human rights based on creed under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) and advance human rights understanding and good practice in this area. The update, which began in 2011, will take two to three years to finish. It will involve extensive research and consultation, and will draw on lessons learned from the OHRC’s recent work on the Policy on competing human rights.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ontario Ministry of Education have finalized a settlement of a human rights complaint initiated by the Commission against the Ministry and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) in July 2005. A settlement was reached separately with the TDSB in November 2005.
As people better understand their rights and wish to exercise them, some of those rights may come into conflict with the rights of others. Depending on the circumstances, for example, the right to be free from discrimination based on creed or sexual orientation or gender may be at odds with each other or with other rights, laws and practices. Can a religious employer require an employee to sign a “morality pledge” not to engage in certain sexual activity? Can an accuser testify at the criminal trial of her accused wearing a niqab?
Most landlords and housing providers try to comply with the Ontario Human Rights Code and work hard to meet the needs of their tenants. However, for some tenants, discrimination in housing is not an unusual occurrence. The lack of affordable and adequate housing, when combined with overt and subtle discrimination in housing, means that many people protected by the Code are excluded from the housing market, forced to pay higher rents than they can actually afford, or relegated to poor quality housing options.
Canada has recognized that adequate housing is a fundamental human right in international instruments such as the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Canada has also agreed to take appropriate steps towards realizing the right to adequate housing.
In May 2007, the Commission initiated a public consultation with the launch of background and consultation papers both entitled Human Rights and Rental Housing in Ontario. Beginning in June 2007, the Commission held public and private meetings in four cities across the province to hear about the extent of the problems and to identify potential solutions. Around 130 organizations and an additional 24 individuals participated in afternoon consultation meetings in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Sudbury and Toronto, and over 100 people participated in evening sessions in these locations.
NIMBY opposition to affordable housing development was a major human rights issue raised by consultees, including both tenant advocates and housing providers. People should not have to ask permission from anyone, including prospective neighbours, before moving in just because of stereotypes relating to grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code). Concerns about affordable housing projects should be legitimately anchored in planning issues rather than stereotypical assumptions about the people who will be housed.
At every step of the consultation, people shared their experiences, feelings and insights. These personal perspectives play a key role whenever human rights issues are considered. Each story offers one person’s glimpse of a larger issue affecting people across Ontario.