Education is just one of the many areas where the OHRC has built new partnerships in the past year. Also of note is the solid working relationship between the OHRC and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC). The OHRC is providing training to Legal Support Centre staff on OHRC policies, and the two groups regularly share information to identify and respond to emerging human rights issues. This collaboration is helping both organizations maximize resources and human rights benefits for all Ontarians.
Working with educators is key to our goal of an inclusive school system for all of Ontario’s children. It is equally important to educate students so they can protect their own human rights and those of their fellow students. To help meet this ongoing goal, Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall frequently talked to students across Ontario to share the human rights message and to learn first-hand of their experiences and issues. This work included visits to Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay and Holy Name Catholic High School in Windsor.
In a consultation over the summer of 2009, the OHRC heard that students continued to face problems arising from school discipline policies. Parents worried that the discipline their children received did not take into account the individual circumstances of each student, and the students who needed support the most were at risk of being left behind. That’s why the OHRC has worked hard to build on its partnerships in the education sector and to find new ways to bring a human rights focus to schools across Ontario.
In late 2009, Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall appeared before the City of Toronto’s Planning and Growth Management Committee to share the OHRC’s comments on the city’s proposed new zoning by-law. This by-law is important because it is the first harmonized zoning by-law since the City of Toronto was amalgamated, and has the potential to either create housing or barriers for many vulnerable people across Toronto.
In January 2010, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruled that municipalities have to consider the needs of everyone - including people with disabilities or on social assistance - when making bylaws. Two bylaws stopped new non-profit and supportive housing from being built in the Cedar Hill neighbourhood in downtown Kitchener. The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and other groups objected, and the OHRC intervened and made the argument that the OMB had to apply the Code when considering the case.
Over the past two years, the OHRC has had many discussions with the City of Oshawa and other municipalities to express concerns about licensing and zoning by-laws that could have an adverse effect on student housing. The OHRC believes, and the Planning Act clearly states, that zoning should focus on planning and land-use issues, and should not be used to choose the people who will live in the housing.
The OHRC joined forces with the City of Toronto, the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario, the Greater Toronto Apartment Association and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre to launch the “Housing is a human right” poster campaign. Large-format posters appeared on 120 transit shelters across Toronto during March, encouraging Toronto tenants and landlords to learn more about these rights.
In today’s society, people are still denied housing because of the colour of their skin, or their country of origin, or their age, or many of the other grounds of Ontario’s Human Rights Code – the Code. Some people with mental health disabilities are evicted because of behaviour that is beyond their control, without landlords even attempting to accommodate them. Some housing providers don’t want to rent to seniors because they think they will need to pay money to accommodate them as they age or acquire disabilities.
June 30, 2010
The Honourable Steve Peters
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Dear Mr. Speaker:
Under Section 31.6 (2) of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontario Human Rights Commission is required to submit a report on the Commission’s activities for the previous fiscal period by June 30th of each year, to be tabled in the Legislature.
From: Annual report 2008-2009
During the past year, there has been much media coverage of the OHRC’s statement about human rights complaints filed against Maclean’s magazine. Our statement made clear that, although we had no jurisdiction to hear a complaint based on the publication of certain views, we do have a broader role in helping the community assess and discuss the tension and conflict that such writing can cause.