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The HRBA Framework – A how-to for advocates and researchers

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Learn more about how the Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA) framework can help you apply a human rights lens to your research and campaigns, and build human rights capacity and expertise to move the dial on specific issues. 

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  1. What is the HRBA Framework?
  2. Ontario’s Human Rights Code
  3. Why should I use the HRBA Framework in my advocacy and research?
  4. Case study – The power of focusing on human rights
  5. Related OHRC policies to support advocates


What is the HRBA Framework?

The HRBA Framework is an analytical and educational tool available to service providers, including non-profits and government services, employers, researchers, advocates as well as provincial and municipal governments.

It supports the user in planning, developing and delivering human rights-focused, inclusive, equitable and accessible policy, programs and services, and helps mitigate discrimination and disproportionate adverse impacts on people.

Through probing human rights questions and considerations, the HRBA Framework educates and supports you to think differently about human rights and fulfilling your obligations under the Code, which leads to better outcomes for everyone.

Asking the right questions will help you make sure human rights inform your advocacy efforts by:

  • strengthening your advocacy and research through analysis of human rights
  • providing evidence-based research, analysis, and rationale for your advocacy campaigns or human rights claims
  • revealing issues of systemic discrimination and placing them in the context of human rights obligations.


Ontario’s Human Rights Code

The Ontario Human Rights Code is for everyone. It is a provincial law that gives everybody equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in areas such as jobs, housing and services. The Code’s goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of 17 protected grounds, in five social areas.

The OHRC educates people and organizations across Ontario about human rights obligations and policies. We also provide tools, such as the HRBA Framework, to help put those policies into practice.


Why should I use the HRBA Framework in my advocacy and research?

The HRBA Framework can help you:

  1. Identify the human rights context of the policies and programs you are advocating for or researching.
  2. Consider every aspect of your campaign or project and how it relates to human rights and advocacy.
  3. Review existing government policies, programs or services with a human rights lens.
  4. Support your research and analysis to consider and reflect human rights obligations and principles.
  5. Develop options and recommendations based on human rights principles and obligations that centre the human rights of impacted communities.
  6. Monitor to assess human rights’ impacts of government, employers and service providers’ policies and programs
  7. Capture your evidence-based research, analysis and rationale for future reference (for example, for use during campaigns).


Case study – The power of focusing on human rights

In 2011, the OHRC led a consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions.  Many people with mental health or addiction disabilities told the OHRC at the time that they were largely unaware that the Code prohibits discrimination based on a psychiatric disability or addiction in housing, employment and when receiving services.

The OHRC also heard that many service providers were unaware of their responsibilities under the Code to uphold the human rights of people with mental health disabilities or addictions. These same organizations told the OHRC that they need guidance on how to meet their duty to accommodate the individual needs of people with mental health or addiction disabilities.

This situation in not unique.  Across many sectors, discrimination persists because many service providers and other duty-holders are unaware of their Code-related responsibilities, and systemic discrimination goes unaddressed.

This is where advocacy organizations and researchers – equipped with human rights capacity developed with the support of the HRBA Framework – can align their research, recommendations and other advocacy activities around legal obligations of governments and service providers to uphold human rights.

Related OHRC policies to support advocates

To get the most out of the HRBA Framework, the OHRC recommends using it in conjunction with other related OHRC policies:

Policy on preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression

Policy statement on human rights in COVID-19 recovery planning

Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability

Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions

Policy and guidelines on racism and racial discrimination

Policy on human rights and rental housing



Frequenly Asked Questions (FAQ's)


1. Does the HRBA Framework guide collaboration with marginalized communities?​

The HRBA Framework consists of seven stages, with a specific stage focusing on planning engagement and working with communities. The HRBA framework empowers marginalized communities by supporting their participation and inclusion in program or policy development. It strengthens the capacity of government and decision-takers to respect, protect and fulfil their legal human rights obligations.


2. How can the HRBA Framework be used to assess the human rights impacts of policies and programs?

The HRBA Framework should be used as early as possible in developing a policy or program to build-in human rights considerations. The HRBA Framework can also be applied to an existing policy, program or service to analyze inequalities and address potential discriminatory practices.