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Appendix E: Suggested contents of an internal policy

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1)  A vision statement setting out the organization’s commitment to maintaining a fair and equitable environment where everyone’s human rights are respected, and where discrimination, harassment, and competing rights situations are dealt with promptly and effectively.

Example: We recognize and value the diversity of Ontario and of our own [workplace, school, apartment building, etc.] We strive for equality in our [employment, education, housing, etc.] practices and delivery of services. We recognize that sometimes rights may come into conflict with one another. Therefore, we will equip management and all [employees, students, tenants, etc.] with knowledge and skills to recognize and address competing rights in our [workplace, school, apartment building, etc.] and service delivery.

We will foster respect on a daily basis amongst management and all [employees, students, tenants, etc.]. We will ensure that management staff understand their legal responsibilities to act immediately to deal with competing rights situations. We will continually monitor and assess progress in recognizing and addressing competing rights situations in our organization.

2)     A clear statement of the goals of the policy, namely:

  • show dignity and respect for one another
  • encourage mutual recognition of interests, rights and obligations
  • facilitate maximum recognition of rights, wherever possible
  • help parties to understand the scope of their rights and obligations
  • address stigma and power imbalances and help to give marginalized individuals and groups a voice
  • encourage cooperation and shared responsibility for finding agreeable solutions that maximize enjoyment of rights, and
  • a commitment on the part of the organization to make sincere efforts to achieve these goals when addressing competing human rights scenarios.

3)     A statement of rights and obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Example: We recognize that under the Ontario Human Rights Code, we have the ultimate responsibility for maintaining an inclusive environment that is free from discrimination and harassment, and where everyone’s human rights are respected. As part of this, we have a legal duty to take steps to prevent and respond to situations involving competing rights.

Example: Under the Code, [employees, students, tenants, etc.] have the right to file a human rights claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario if they believe that they have experienced discrimination in [employment, housing, education, other services, etc.]

4)     A list of the prohibited grounds of discrimination listed in the Code.

Example: The Code prohibits discrimination based on 15 grounds: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, disability, receipt of public assistance (in housing only), record of offences (in employment only). Competing rights claims may potentially arise relating to any Code ground.

5)     A definition of "competing human rights" (see section 4 of this Policy).

Example: In general, competing human rights involve situations where parties to a dispute claim that the enjoyment of an individual or group’s human rights and freedoms, as protected by law, would interfere with another’s rights and freedoms. This complicates the normal approach to resolving a human rights dispute where only one side claims a human rights violation. In some cases, only one party is making a human rights claim, but the claim conflicts with the legal entitlements of another party or parties.

6)     Examples of competing rights scenarios that are meaningful and relevant in the organization’s context.

7)     A description of who the policy applies to (such as employers, employees, unions, etc.).

8)     How internal complaints and competing rights situations will be handled with details on:

  • who to complain to and/or raise competing right concerns with an assurance that the person handling complaints and/or competing rights concerns should be independent, expert, etc.
  • confidentiality
  • reassurance that the person(s) making a complaint and/or raising competing rights concerns will be protected from reprisal, or threat of reprisal
  • help that is available for parties
  • the availability of Alternative Dispute Resolution, such as mediation, to resolve a complaint and/or competing rights situation (see section 7.3 of this Policy)
  • how the complaint and/or competing rights situation will be investigated
  • how long the process will take
  • a commitment that decisions made and/or actions taken by the organization will be communicated to the parties.

9)     A commitment to act in accordance with the following key competing rights legal principles:

a)     No rights are absolute

b)     There is no hierarchy of rights

c)      Rights may not extend as far as claimed

d)     The full context, facts and constitutional values at stake must be considered

e)     Must look at extent of interference (only actual burdens on rights trigger conflicts)

f)       The core of a right is more protected than its periphery

g)     Aim to respect the importance of both sets of rights

h)     Statutory defences may restrict rights of one group and give rights to another, and a recognition of the obligation to consider these legal principles when dealing with competing rights situations, and to stay apprised of case law developments (the OHRC will provide on-line legal updates to this Policy. (See section 5 of this Policy for more detail.)

10)  A commitment to use the OHRC’s analysis when addressing competing human rights situations (see section 6 of this Policy).

11)  A statement reinforcing the right of individuals to file other types of complaints, such as:

  • a human rights application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario at any time during the internal process, as well as an explanation of the one-year time limit in the Code
  • a complaint under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, if applicable
  • a grievance under a collective agreement, if applicable
  • criminal charges, if applicable.

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