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Reaching out across Ontario

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The past year has been a busy one as the OHRC expanded its public education and outreach activities. Our challenge is to connect with people and organizations across Ontario, and update them on what’s happening in human rights. This included leading 55 public education events. Highlights included:

  • Competing rights in school settings – York Region District School Board
  • Human rights in mental health services – Schizophrenia Society of Ontario
  • Human rights and policing – Owen Sound Police Service
  • Human rights for investigators – College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • HR 101 for immigrants – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
  • Bone fide occupational requirements – Ontario Public Service Employees Union
  • Sessions for organizations across Ontario on our Minds that matter report and our Policy on competing human rights.

Training was only one part of our outreach work. OHRC staff also did a wide variety of consultations and work with organizations of all sizes. Examples of this ongoing, everyday work in 2012-2013 included:

  • Providing input into rental housing licensing bylaw development in various Ontario municipalities
  • Offering advice on how to respect human rights when conducting public planning meetings
  • Advising the City of Hamilton about Human Rights Code obligations when looking at changes to transit fare policies and the impact on riders with disabilities
  • Outreach in Thunder Bay about issues of concern to Aboriginal/First Nations Peoples in the region
  • Providing advice to a community health clinic to help them get accommodation for their client to ensure uninterrupted methadone treatment
  • Providing advice and resources to employers about inappropriate questions on employment application forms, resulting in changes to forms
  • Advising unrepresented transgender people about where to go for legal help with human rights complaints
  • Advising several municipalities about the connection between human rights and methadone clinics
  • Providing input to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) for its submission to the UN Human Rights Council for Canada’s 2013 Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
  • Meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and discussing intersections with disability, social assistance and our litigation on the special diet allowance cases
  • Serving on a committee to advise the Law Commission of Ontario on its Framework for the Law as It Affects Persons with Disabilities, released in September 2012
  • Meeting with a delegation from the Beijing Disabled Persons Federation, to talk about Ontario human rights law protections for people with disabilities, and accessibility requirements.

Again this year, the Chief Commissioner met or spoke with more than 100 communities and groups across Ontario, an important part of advancing human rights. She made more than 50 speeches or presentations. Some highlights:

  • Beyond Canadian Experience, Toronto
  • “Meeting the Challenge: Accommodation and Inclusion” for Community Living Ontario and Inclusive Education Canada, Toronto
  • Minds that matter launches, North Bay, Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor
  • Policy on competing human rights launches, Aylmer, Ottawa, Windsor, North Bay, Toronto
  • Courtice Secondary School, Courtice
  • Law Commission of Ontario Symposium: “Into the future, benefitting from the past,” Toronto
  • Windsor Pride Annual General Meeting, Windsor
  • In the zone: Housing, human rights and municipal planning, Midland
  • Metropolis 2013 conference, “Policing, Justice and Security in a Diverse World,” Ottawa
  • Kitty Lundy Memorial Lecture, Toronto, “Minds that matter: human rights, mental health and addictions”
  • Rotary Club North Bay Nipissing, “Human rights – a community responsibility.”

Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall also made submissions to legislative committees, including:

  • Ontario Legislative Standing Committee on Social Policy on Bill 13, An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters and Bill 14, An Act to designate Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week in Schools and to provide for bullying prevention curricula, policies and administrative accountability in schools
  • Standing Committee on Social Policy on Bill 33, Toby's Act (Right to be Free from Discrimination and Harassment Because of Gender Identity or Gender Expression).

Honouring our CCMARD commitment – Taking it local

The OHRC is a key player in the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD), a collective of municipalities that have each made a commitment to take action against racism and discrimination. We have made a commitment to provide training on human rights in locations across the province. Our most recent training day took place in February in partnership with the City of Ottawa.

This event, Taking it local: A municipal update on human rights, offered a municipal view on current human rights developments. It included plenary sessions on the Policy on competing human rights and on Minds that matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions.

The day also included sessions on:

  • Disability and accommodation
  • Creed, freedom of religion and human rights
  • Anti-racism and anti-discrimination for municipalities
  • Preventing sexual and gender-based harassment.

It provided municipal politicians and staff, as well as community organizations from Eastern Ontario a forum to learn more about what communities can do to become more welcoming to and inclusive of everyone, and to network and identify other ways to advance human rights.

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