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A. List of Participating Organizations

56 submissions were received from individuals and organizations representing a broad cross section of perspectives on Ontario's human rights system. As well, 31 individuals participated in three focus group sessions. Consultees included complainants, advocates and other interested individuals; complainant and respondent counsel; human resource professionals; specialty and community legal clinics; community organizations; government agencies; unions; academics and other experts, including international human rights consultants; and staff of the OHRC and HRTO.

Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario
African-Canadian Legal Clinic
ARCH: A Legal Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities
Association of Human Rights Lawyers
Autism Society of Ontario
Canadian Hearing Society
Canadian Human Rights Commission
Canadian Race Relations Foundation
Civil Rights in Public Education
Community and Legal Aid Services Programme
Education Equality in Ontario
Foundation for Children, Youth, and the Law
Hicks Morley
Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (HRPAO)
Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
Legal Aid Ontario
Manitoba Human Rights Commission
Magna International
Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
Ontario Human Rights Commission
Ontario Federation of Labour
Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
Sanson & Hart
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
Scott & Oleskiw
Stringer Brisbin Humphrey
Toronto Catholic District School Board
Toronto Family Network
Union of Ontario Indians
United Steelworkers
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)

B. Consultation Questions

1. Online Questionnaire


1. Making reference to the principles outlined in the Discussion Paper and given the state of the current human rights system in Ontario, do you have concern that the fulfillment of any of the following international human rights effectiveness factors and domestic administrative law requirements is not being maximized:

Please identify only those areas where you have concerns.

  • Independence (state institutions are capable of acting independently of power brokers in society, particularly government)
    - What are your concerns?
    - What reforms do you feel would best address these concerns?
  • Defined Jurisdiction (state institutions are endowed with clearly defined mandates that in totality cover off all relevant internationally recognized protected rights and functions necessary for an effective human rights system)
    - What are your concerns?
    - What reforms do you feel would best address these concerns?
  • Cooperation (state institutions are able and willing to establish and strengthen cooperative relations with other actors in the human rights system)
    - What are your concerns?
    - What reforms do you feel would best address these concerns?
  • Adequate Power (state institutions are vested with adequate power to accomplish all mandated objectives and functions)
    - What are your concerns?
    - What reforms do you feel would best address these concerns?
  • Accessibility (state institutions are accessible to individuals and groups whose interests they are established to protect and promote)
    - What are your concerns?
    - What reforms do you feel would best address these concerns?
  • Operational Efficiency (state institutions are efficient and effective in operation)
    - What are your concerns?
    - What reforms do you feel would best address these concerns?
  • Accountability (state institutions are accountable to all stakeholders)
    - What are your concerns?
    - What reforms do you feel would best address these concerns?
  • The administrative duty of fairness, balancing with the demands of procedural simplicity
    - What are your concerns?
    - What reforms do you feel would best address these concerns?

2.  Below is a list of potential actors in a human rights system. Please identify the specific actors with regard to whom you wish to make comment.  Please respond to the questions raised bearing in mind the contents of the Discussion Paper.

  • State human right institution(s)
    - What should be the roles, responsibilities, and structures of state human rights institution(s) in Ontario? - Are there reforms to the role, responsibilities, and structures of the OHRC and the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal that you feel would be beneficial for the Ontario’s human rights system?
    - If proposing change, what would be strengths and weaknesses of the proposed changes?
  • The Provincial Government­
    - Are there reforms to the role of the Government and the Ministry of Attorney General (as the current Ministry responsible for Provincial human rights institutions) that you feel would be beneficial for Ontario’s human rights system?
  • Administrative Tribunals that participate in Ontario’s human rights system  (For example, the Special Education Tribunal, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal, labour arbitrators, etc.)
    - What should be the roles of these types of bodies in the human rights system in Ontario?
    - Are there reforms to the roles of these types of bodies that would benefit the human rights system in the Province?
  • Other Government bodies that participate in Ontario’s human rights system (For example, the Accessibility Directorate, the Women’s Directorate, the Seniors’ Secretariat)
    - What should be the roles of these types of bodies in the human rights system in Ontario
    - Are there reforms to the roles of these bodies that would benefit the human rights system in the Province and what would they be?
  • Non-Government Organizations that participate in Ontario’s human rights system (For example, legal clinics, advocacy groups, private corporations)
    - What should be the roles of these bodies in the human rights system in Ontario?
    - Are there reforms to the roles of these organizations that would benefit the human rights system in the Province and what would they be?
  • Governments of other jurisdictions (such as municipal and federal governments, and the United Nations)
    - What interaction and coordination should happen and would benefit the human rights system in the Province?
    - How do we enhance the interaction and coordination between these participants to improve the human rights system in the province? 

2. Focus Groups

Question 1: Integration of functions

The Paris Principles and UN guidelines identify a number of functions and powers that can be used by state human rights institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights including: receiving, mediating, disposing of and/or litigating complaints; conducting research, consultation and policy development; advising; public reporting; cooperation; and public education.  All these functions currently, though not exclusively, form the broad mandate of the OHRC, which acts to integrate these various functions.

Recognizing that compliance, litigation, policy and education functions are all parts of an advanced human rights system how should these functions be integrated in a human rights system?

Question 2: Harmonization of the system

The Paris Principles and UN guidelines also recognize that other government and non-government institutions and organizations also play important roles to carry out similar functions and are competent to act in the protection and promotion of human rights. There are a variety of government bodies that are currently performing functions that directly deal with or touch on human rights. These include the HRTO, Ontario Women’s Directorate, the Accessibility Directorate, the Workers Safety and Insurance system and the Special Education Tribunal.

What functions should be established or strengthened under other institutions and organizations and how should these be coordinated?

Question 3: Duty of fairness and complexity

Administrative law recognizes the right of individuals to provide meaningful input when decisions are made affecting them. This can take many forms. The more extensive the opportunity to provide input, the more lengthy and complex the decision-making process will likely be. 

Recognizing that duty of fairness and simplicity of process are often a trade off, what is the proper balance of these principles in a human rights system in Ontario?

Question 4: Administrative and Judicial Processes

Both administrative and judicial-like decision-making processes can meet the duty of fairness; however, depending on factors such as impact and complexity of the decision, one or the other type of process may be more appropriate in a given circumstance. Currently, the Ontario human rights system involves a mix of administrative and judicial-type decision-making, with administrative decision-making at the Commission and judicial-type decision-making at the Tribunal, and the courts as a last resort.

What is the appropriate balance between these two processes for a human rights system in Ontario?

Question 5: Accessibility

Accessibility is a fundamental component of a human rights system. This means not just access to a particular institution or to a hearing, but more broadly to an effectively functioning mechanism for raising human rights issues. All individual should be able to raise human rights issues safely, regardless of circumstances such as financial means, culture, or power imbalances.

Recognizing that accessibility to the human rights compliance system is a vital human rights principle of concern, how should barriers of cost to client, culture, and power imbalance be overcome in a human rights system?

Question 6: The “Triaging” Function

One of the key functions of the Commission is to assess complaints and allocate resources to those complaints that most appear to warrant it, based on the criteria set out in section 34 and 36 of the Code. Thus, the Commission acts to triage complaints in the current system. Any human rights system will need some method of triaging in order to assess the admissibility of complaints based on defined jurisdiction and in a manner that avoids misallocation of human and financial resources.

Recognizing that some form of “triaging” is an unavoidable reality in any human rights system,

a. What are the criteria through which it should be done?
b. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having triaging decisions made through an administrative decision-making process, or a judicial-type one?  

Question 7: Other comments

Are there any issues regarding the human rights system in Ontario not covered in the Discussion Paper or in today’s focus group session that you would like to comment on?

C. Paris Principles

Principles relating to the status of national institutions – “Paris Principles.

Competence and responsibilities

1. A national institution shall be vested with competence to promote and protect human rights.

2. A national institution shall be given as broad a mandate as possible, which shall be clearly set forth in a constitutional or legislative text, specifying its composition and its sphere of competence.

3. A national institution shall, inter alia, have the following responsibilities:

a) To submit to the Government, Parliament and any other competent body, on an advisory basis either at the request of the authorities concerned or through the exercise of its power to hear a matter without higher referral, opinions, recommendations, proposals and reports on any matters concerning the promotion and protection of human rights; the national institution may decide to publicize them; these opinions, recommendations, proposals and reports, as well as any prerogative of the national institution, shall relate to the following areas:

i. Any legislative or administrative provisions, as well as provisions relating to judicial organizations, intended to preserve and extend the protection of human rights; in that connection, the national institution shall examine the legislation and administrative provisions in force, as well as bills and proposals, and shall make such recommendations as it deems appropriate in order to ensure that these provisions conform to the fundamental principles of human rights; it shall, if necessary, recommend the adoption of new legislation, the amendment of legislation in force and the adoption or amendment of administrative measures;
ii. Any situation of violation of human rights which it decides to take up;
iii. The preparation of reports on the national situation with regard to human rights in general, and on more specific matters;
iv. Drawing the attention of the Government to situations in any part of the country where human rights are violated and making proposals to it for initiatives to put an end to such situations and, where necessary, expressing an opinion on the positions and reactions of the Government;

b) To promote and ensure the harmonization of national legislation regulations and practices with the international human rights instruments to which the State is a party, and their effective implementation;
c) To encourage ratification of the above-mentioned instruments or accession to those instruments, and to ensure their implementation;
d) To contribute to the reports which States are required to submit to United Nations bodies and committees, and to regional institutions, pursuant to their treaty obligations and, where necessary, to express an opinion on the subject, with due respect for their independence;
e) To cooperate with the United Nations and any other organization in the United Nations system, the regional institutions and the national institutions of other countries that are competent in the areas of the promotion and protection of human rights;
f) To assist in the formulation of programmes for the teaching of, and research into, human rights and to take part in their execution in schools, universities and professional circles;
g) To publicize human rights and efforts to combat all forms of discrimination, in particular racial discrimination, by increasing public awareness, especially through information and education and by making use of all press organs.

Composition and guarantees of independence and pluralism

1. The composition of the national institution and the appointment of its members, whether by means of an election or otherwise, shall be established in accordance with a procedure which affords all necessary guarantees to ensure the pluralist representation of the social forces (of civilian society) involved in the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly by powers which will enable effective cooperation to be established with, or through the presence of, representatives of:

a) Non-governmental organizations responsible for human rights and efforts to combat racial discrimination, trade unions, concerned social and professional organizations, for example, associations of lawyers, doctors, journalists and eminent scientists;
b) Trends in philosophical or religious thought;
c) Universities and qualified experts;
d) Parliament;
e) Government departments (if these are included, their representatives should participate in the deliberations only in an advisory capacity).

2. The national institution shall have an infrastructure that is suited to the smooth conduct of its activities, in particular adequate funding. The purpose of this funding should be to enable it to have its own staff and premises, in order to be independent of the Government and not be subject to financial control that might affect its independence.

3. In order to ensure a stable mandate for the members of the national institution, without which there can be no real independence, their appointment shall be effected by an official act which shall establish the specific duration of the mandate. This mandate may be renewable, provided that the pluralism of the institution's membership is ensured.

Methods of operation

Within the framework of its operation, the national institution shall:

a) Freely consider any questions falling within its competence, whether they are submitted by the Government or taken up by it without referral to a higher authority, on the proposal of its members or of any petitioner;
b) Hear any person and obtain any information and any documents necessary for assessing situations falling within its competence;
c) Address public opinion directly or through any press organ, particularly in order to publicize its opinions and recommendations;
d) Meet on a regular basis and whenever necessary in the presence of all its members after they have been duly convened;
e) Establish working groups from among its members as necessary, and set up local or regional sections to assist it in discharging its functions;
f) Maintain consultation with the other bodies, whether jurisdictional or otherwise, responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights (in particular ombudsmen, mediators and similar institutions);
g) In view of the fundamental role played by the non-governmental organizations in expanding the work of the national institutions, develop relations with the non-governmental organizations devoted to promoting and protecting human rights, to economic and social development, to combating racism, to protecting particularly vulnerable groups (especially children, migrant workers, refugees, physically and mentally disabled persons) or to specialized areas.

Additional principles concerning the status of commissions with quasi-jurisdictional competence

A national institution may be authorized to hear and consider complaints and petitions concerning individual situations. Cases may be brought before it by individuals, their representatives, third parties, non-governmental organizations, associations of trade unions or any other representative organizations. In such circumstances, and without prejudice to the principles stated above concerning the other powers of the commissions, the functions entrusted to them may be based on the following principles:

a) Seeking an amicable settlement through conciliation or, within the limits prescribed by the law, through binding decisions or, where necessary, on the basis of confidentiality;
b) Informing the party who filed the petition of his rights, in particular the remedies available to him, and promoting his access to them;
c) Hearing any complaints or petitions or transmitting them to any other competent authority within the limits prescribed by the law;
d) Making recommendations to the competent authorities, especially by proposing amendments or reforms of the laws, regulations and administrative practices, especially if they have created the difficulties encountered by the persons filing the petitions in order to assert their rights.

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