Language selector

Right to Read Inquiry: Letter to deans of 13 Ontario faculties of education

Page controls

Page content

December 20, 2019


I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to each Faculty of Education in Ontario to request documents, data, and information that may be relevant to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) Right to Read inquiry into human rights issues that affect students with reading disabilities in Ontario’s public education system.

I know that we share the goal of ensuring that teachers are properly prepared to teach all students, including those with reading disabilities, how to read. Learning to read is necessary if students are to have meaningful access to education, a right guaranteed under Ontario’s Human Rights Code (the Code). Regular classroom teachers have a significant impact on determining which students will learn to read, write, and use language in order to succeed academically. Appropriate pre-service and in-service teacher education on scientific evidence-based reading instruction has been found to improve overall student outcomes.[1]

The OHRC wants to assess whether teachers being trained in Ontario are receiving adequate training and academic preparation necessary to support Ontario students’ right to read. The OHRC is conducting this inquiry under the authority of section 31 (see Appendix A) of the Code. The Terms of Reference for the inquiry are attached.

To conduct this inquiry, we are asking you to produce documents, data and information and to answer questions. We ask that you provide a complete response to each item below or if you cannot, that you indicate why. We have provided an Excel spreadsheet that corresponds to each item requested. Please respond to the production request through the spreadsheet (i.e. fill in your answers in the Excel spreadsheet and provide the requested data in the corresponding Tabs).

We would ask that you provide this information by February 7, 2020. At the end of this letter, I include details about how your staff can connect with OHRC staff to facilitate this process.

Pursuant to sections 31(7) and 31(8) of the Code, the OHRC requests that your faculty of education produce the following documents, data and information:

  1. Please provide a list of all common courses for all pre-service programs. Please indicate which are required and which are elective.
  2. Please provide a list of all courses specific to each of your primary-junior; junior-intermediate; and intermediate-senior pre-service programs. Please indicate which are required and which are elective.
  3. Please provide a list of all Additional Qualification (AQ) and Additional Basic Qualification (ABQ) in-service courses offered.
  4. Please identify all courses, whether for any pre-service program or AQ or ABQ in-service program, that address any of the following and provide: the course name; whether required or elective; the course description; the course outline/planned curriculum/syllabus; the reading list and the name and author(s) of any text book(s), readings, and/or articles; and which area below the course pertains to:
    1. Literacy
    2. Reading
    3. The structure of oral and written language, how literacy is acquired, models of skilled reading, and related pedagogy
    4. The system of language including phonology, orthography, morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse, pragmatics (for definitions, see Appendix B)
    5. Educational psychology
    6. How to deliver direct teaching of:
      • i) word recognition skills including phonological skills (phonological awareness), sound-symbol correspondence (phonics), fluent word recognition, text reading, and
      • ii) language comprehension skills including background knowledge (facts, concepts), vocabulary, verbal reasoning (inference, metaphor etc.), literacy knowledge (print concepts, genres), language structures (syntax, semantics), text comprehension, and literature appreciation
    7. Whole language approaches (e.g. three cueing system, sights words, word prediction (guessing based on syntax or semantics), levelled readers)
    8. Direct instruction/Explicit instruction in reading or structured literacy approaches
    9. Balanced literacy approaches
    10. How to recognize early signs of students at risk for reading difficulties
    11. Identifying and using screening tests designed to identify students at risk for reading difficulties
    12. Understanding dyslexia and other learning disabilities that affect reading
    13. Identifying and using progress monitoring tools with all students to measure progress in reading skills acquisition and support effective reading instruction 
    14. How to read and interpret the most common diagnostic tests used by and reports written by psychologists, speech-language pathologists
    15. Special education, students with exceptionalities
    16. The Ontario Human Rights Code, the duty to accommodate
    17. Individual Education Plans
    18. Universal Design for Learning
    19. Response to Intervention and/or Multi-tier System of Supports
    20. English Language Learners
    21. Students at risk.
  5. Outside of coursework, please describe in detail any other methods by which teacher candidates or in-service teachers in your programs acquire knowledge related to any of the above.

Under section 31 of the Code, you are obligated to produce the documents and information noted above, and provide any assistance that is reasonably necessary, including assistance in using any data storage, processing or retrieval device or system, to produce a document in readable form. As well, under section 8 of the Code, anyone who takes part in our inquiry must not be subjected to reprisal or threat of reprisal.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive request, and the OHRC may ask your faculty of education to produce additional documents, data and information and to answer additional questions as the inquiry proceeds.


Next steps

If you have any questions or wish to discuss the process of providing the above-noted documents, data and information to the OHRC please contact Reema Khawja, Senior Counsel at Otherwise, we look forward to receiving this information by February 7, 2020.

As the inquiry will also hear from students, parents, educators and other professionals, I enclose an electronic copy of the OHRC’s Right to Read flyer and ask that you disseminate it through the usual means of communication with professors and students.

The OHRC recognizes that faculties of education across the province want to ensure their teacher candidates will graduate with a good foundation of knowledge that is up to date with scientific evidence-based research on teaching reading. We believe that the Right to Read inquiry will support these efforts.

We look forward to working with you and receiving your assistance in accordance with the requirements of the Code. In keeping with the OHRC’s commitment to public accountability and its duties in serving the people of Ontario, this letter and your response will be made public.


Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
Chief Commissioner

cc:       Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General
            Hon. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education
            Hon. Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities



31. (1) The Commission may conduct an inquiry under this section for the purpose of carrying out its functions under this Act if the Commission believes it is in the public interest to do so.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Conduct of inquiry

(2) An inquiry may be conducted under this section by any person who is appointed by the Commission to carry out inquiries under this section. 2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Production of certificate

(3) A person conducting an inquiry under this section shall produce proof of their appointment upon request.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.


(4) A person conducting an inquiry under this section may, without warrant, enter any lands or any building, structure or premises where the person has reason to believe there may be documents, things or information relevant to the inquiry. 2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Time of entry

(5) The power to enter a place under subsection (4) may be exercised only during the place’s regular business hours or, if it does not have regular business hours, during daylight hours.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.


(6) A person conducting an inquiry under this section shall not enter into a place or part of a place that is a dwelling without the consent of the occupant.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Powers on inquiry

(7) A person conducting an inquiry may,

(a) request the production for inspection and examination of documents or things that are or may be relevant to the inquiry;

(b) upon giving a receipt for it, remove from a place documents produced in response to a request under clause (a) for the purpose of making copies or extracts;

(c) question a person on matters that are or may be relevant to the inquiry, subject to the person’s right to have counsel or a personal representative present during such questioning and exclude from the questioning any person who may be adverse in interest to the inquiry;

(d) use any data storage, processing or retrieval device or system used in carrying on business in the place in order to produce a document in readable form;

(e) take measurements or record by any means the physical dimensions of a place;

(f) take photographs, video recordings or other visual or audio recordings of the interior or exterior of a place; and

(g) require that a place or part thereof not be disturbed for a reasonable period of time for the purposes of carrying out an examination, inquiry or test.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Written demand

(8) A demand that a document or thing be produced must be in writing and must include a statement of the nature of the document or thing required.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.


(9) A person conducting an inquiry may be accompanied by any person who has special, expert or professional knowledge and who may be of assistance in carrying out the inquiry.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Use of force prohibited

(10) A person conducting an inquiry shall not use force to enter and search premises under this section.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Obligation to produce and assist

(11) A person who is requested to produce a document or thing under clause (7) (a) shall produce it and shall, on request by the person conducting the inquiry, provide any assistance that is reasonably necessary, including assistance in using any data storage, processing or retrieval device or system, to produce a document in readable form.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Return of removed things

(12) A person conducting an inquiry who removes any document or thing from a place under clause (7) (b) shall,

(a) make it available to the person from whom it was removed, on request, at a time and place convenient for both that person and the person conducting the inquiry; and

(b) return it to the person from whom it was removed within a reasonable time.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Admissibility of copies

(13) A copy of a document certified by a person conducting an inquiry to be a true copy of the original is admissible in evidence to the same extent as the original and has the same evidentiary value.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.


(14) No person shall obstruct or interfere with a person conducting an inquiry under this section.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Section Amendments with date in force (d/m/y)

2006, c. 30, s. 4 - 30/06/2008

Search warrant

31.1 (1) The Commission may authorize a person to apply to a justice of the peace for a warrant to enter a place and conduct a search of the place if,

(a) a person conducting an inquiry under section 31 has been denied entry to any place or asked to leave a place before concluding a search;

(b) a person conducting an inquiry under section 31 made a request for documents or things and the request was refused; or

(c) an inquiry under section 31 is otherwise obstructed or prevented.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.


(2) Upon application by a person authorized under subsection (1) to do so, a justice of the peace may issue a warrant under this section if he or she is satisfied on information under oath or affirmation that the warrant is necessary for the purposes of carrying out the inquiry under section 31.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.


(3) A warrant obtained under subsection (2) may authorize a person named in the warrant, upon producing proof of his or her appointment,

(a) to enter any place specified in the warrant, including a dwelling; and

(b) to do any of the things specified in the warrant.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Conditions on search warrant

(4) A warrant obtained under subsection (2) shall contain such conditions as the justice of the peace considers advisable to ensure that any search authorized by the warrant is reasonable in the circumstances.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Time of execution

(5) An entry under a warrant issued under this section shall be made at such reasonable times as may be specified in the warrant.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Expiry of warrant

(6) A warrant issued under this section shall name a date of expiry, which shall be no later than 15 days after the warrant is issued, but a justice of the peace may extend the date of expiry for an additional period of no more than 15 days, upon application without notice by the person named in the warrant.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Use of force

(7) The person authorized to execute the warrant may call upon police officers for assistance in executing the warrant and the person may use whatever force is reasonably necessary to execute the warrant.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.

Obstruction prohibited

(8) No person shall obstruct or hinder a person in the execution of a warrant issued under this section.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.


(9) Subsections 31 (11)(12) and (13) apply with necessary modifications to an inquiry carried out pursuant to a warrant issued under this section.  2006, c. 30, s. 4.



Phonology:               The rule system within a language by which phonemes can be sequenced, combined, and pronounced to make words

            Orthography:             A writing system for representing language

Morphology:              The study of meaningful units in a language and how the units are combined in word formation

Semantics:                The study of word and phrase meanings and relationships

Syntax:                       The system of rules governing permissible word order in sentences

Discourse:                 Written or spoken communication or the exchange of information and ideas, usually longer than a sentence, between individuals or between writer and reader

Pragmatics:               The system of rules and conventions for using language and related gestures in a social context



[1] National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (US), Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction: Reports of the subgroups (Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, 2000).