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OHRC statement on allegations of refusal of service to Indigenous people in Kenora

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February 24, 2021

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As Wabaseemoong Independent Nations in Northwestern Ontario fights an outbreak of COVID-19, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is aware of reports of businesses and organizations in Kenora refusing services to Indigenous people and of social media posts spreading racist comments and misinformation.

The OHRC reminds everyone that discriminatory action against individuals who are Indigenous or who have, or are perceived to have, COVID-19 is a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code. No one should experience harassment or other discriminatory treatment based on their Indigenous ancestry, an actual or perceived disability, or another prohibited ground under Ontario’s Human Rights Code. Reactions based on stereotypes or personal biases must not replace responsible actions based on evidence and individual circumstances.

The OHRC calls on businesses to follow the requirements and advice of health authorities and apply them equally to all customers.

Customers in turn should also follow the requirements and advice of health authorities including wearing masks and social distancing while accessing services or self-isolating when required.

The OHRC commends local leaders for speaking up on this important issue and encourages others to do so as well. All members of society have a responsibility to avoid fear mongering and the harm it causes. We encourage all residents of Kenora to stand up against racism in their community.

The OHRC has developed a series of questions and answers to help duty-holders and members of the public understand their human rights and obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Ena Chadha
Chief Commissioner