Prepared for the International Symposium on Age Discrimination, London, England
September 5, 2005
This paper, prepared by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (Canada), is for presentation at a panel session of the International Symposium on Age Discrimination being held September 5, 2005 in London, England. The theme of the session is “Beyond legislation – achieving cultural and attitudinal change” and has as its objectives:
To examine the strategies which have been adopted in different territories to drive cultural and attitudinal change amongst employers, service providers and wider society, and
To seek to identify the mechanisms which are most successful and the relationship between legislation and compliance, campaigning and support to individuals.
The paper gives a brief legislative and non-legislative context and describes a six year journey that the Ontario Human Rights Commission (the Commission) undertook to bring the issue of age discrimination and ageism to the forefront of public discourse and address some of the fundamental issues affecting the lives of older Ontarians and their families. It highlights both compliance and promotion functions exercised by the Commission under its mandate to effect change in public beliefs, policies and practices and advance human rights for older persons. The Commission’s efforts have ultimately resulted in a change in law that will now increase opportunity and choice for Ontarians over 65 in the area of employment.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission is the oldest and, by some measures, the largest statutory human rights agency in Canada. It is an arm’s length agency of the government, accountable to the Legislature of Ontario through the Attorney General. Its responsibility is bounded by the physical boundaries of the province of Ontario and the jurisdiction of the provincial government as set by law. The Commission’s principal functions are set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) and include the promotion and advancement of human rights and the investigation, mediation, settlement and litigation of complaints.