Playing our part on Canada’s stage

Although the OHRC’s jurisdiction is limited to Ontario, we have a clear interest in human rights developments across the country. The OHRC is an active member of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA). Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall served as President of the association for the past three years. Through CASHRA, commissions share best practices and new developments, and also speak with one voice on human rights matters that affect all Canadians. In the past year, CASHRA spoke on several important issues.

Putting rights into practice

In July 2012, CASHRA called on all levels of government across Canada to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration is a positive document that maps out a path for Indigenous peoples to be free from discrimination and secure in their identities and life choices. It recognizes the fundamental rights of Indigenous peoples around the world, and outlines minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being.

While Canada formally endorsed the Declaration in November 2010, some provinces and territories have not followed suit. CASHRA is calling on these provinces and territories to formally endorse the Declaration, and help Canada as a whole to move forward in resolving the issues that continue to cause hardship for many Aboriginal Peoples today.

Aboriginal women’s issues – calling for government action

According to Statistics Canada, Aboriginal women in Canada are seven times more likely to be murdered than non-Aboriginal women. The Native Women's Association of Canada reports that over the past 30 years, an alarming number of Aboriginal women and girls have gone missing or been found murdered in communities across Canada. Most of these cases remain unsolved.

To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, 2013, CASHRA released a motion addressed to the Government of Canada to deal with this problem. CASHRA called for the Government to work with Aboriginal Peoples' organizations to develop and implement a national action plan. The plan would focus urgent attention on addressing and preventing the root causes of violence against Aboriginal women and girls, including poverty and systemic discrimination. It further called on the Government to establish an independent and inclusive inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.

Eliminating racial discrimination

On March 21, 2013, CASHRA commemorated the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by issuing a series of press releases highlighting activities from each agency relating to eliminating racism. The OHRC release included links to videos on racism produced for its Living Rights Project.

The OHRC is an active member of CASHRA working groups which together with Aboriginal communities and disabled persons’ groups are working to advance the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).

I remember … the principal of the school, said to me, you want too much. Don't you think it's wonderful that you're here and you're not living in Africa, and that you're not suffering the way some of those African children are? And I was appalled and went home and, of course, discussed this with my parents and father said that's sheer ignorance. They know nothing about Africa. They know nothing about the contributions and he, you know, he spurred me on to do more.

- Zanana Akande, educator, former provincial cabinet minister
You want too much