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Celebrating International Women's Day – Ontario Human Rights Commission releases new Policy on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment

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March 8, 2011

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For immediate publication

Toronto – A new policy on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment was launched today by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) in partnership with the Ryerson Students’ Union, Ryerson University and the CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University.

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The new policy focuses on sexual harassment and discrimination in employment, housing and education. Sexual harassment often occurs because of a power imbalance between the harasser and the person being harassed. And it can happen to anyone regardless of one’s social, economic or ethnic background.

The new Policy also covers gender-based harassment which includes harassing comments or conduct made to a person because of his or her gender. Gender-based harassment often reinforces traditional male/female roles. The effects of such harassment are serious, and can be particularly harsh on young people and lead to skipping classes, dropping out of school or more serious consequences such as alcohol or drug abuse or even suicide.

The Policy sets out Code protections against sexual and gender-based harassment and provides practical steps to prevent such harassment. It replaces the Commission’s earlier 1996 publication entitled, Policy on Sexual Harassment and Inappropriate Gender-related Comment and Conduct.

“Sexual and gender-based harassment is not only wrong, it is against the law. The OHRC’s new Policy on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment can help make people aware of their rights, roles and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Knowing your rights and responsibilities under the Code can prevent human rights claims and promote respectful, safe and secure environments for all.” – Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission

“It is most appropriate that this policy on sexual and gender-based harassment is released on this day to mark the centennial celebration of International Women's Day. While we celebrate the gains we have made on women's equality, we are also reminded of the systemic barriers and challenges that we have yet to overcome. The policy will be such a useful advocacy tool in our collective work to end violence against women.” – Winnie Ng, CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University

“Gender-based violence often has its roots in a harassing comment, rude gesture or unwanted sexual advance. As students we are aware of the seriousness of gender-based harassment on campus and the negative impact it can have on a student’s learning environment. We need to be proactive. It is our collective responsibility to create environments that are free from hate, harassment and violence. Women on our campuses need to be equipped with the tools that will give them the confidence to advocate for themselves, and resources are needed to create awareness around the seriousness of sexual harassment. “ – Caitlin Smith, Vice-President, Finance and Services, Ryerson Students' Union

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Afroze Edwards
Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management
(416) 314-4528



Suelan Toye
Public Affairs
Ryerson University
416-979-5000 x 7161