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Ontario Human Rights Commission opens consultation to explore human rights and family relationships

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May 12, 2005

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For immediate publication 

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission began a consultation on human rights and family status today with the release of a Discussion Paper called, Human Rights and the Family in Ontario.

The Commission is exploring how family relationships affect access to employment, housing and services.  “This is an ideal time to raise awareness about human rights issues surrounding family relationships,” remarked Chief Commissioner Keith Norton.  “While positive notions about families, such as the importance of work-life balance, are becoming more prevalent, human rights protections related to family status under Ontario’s Human Rights Code have received far less consideration”, stated Norton. 

Recent complaints brought before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, like the case of a single mother who was rejected by more than five landlords, each of whom stated that they did not rent to people with children, further demonstrate a lack of awareness about human rights protections for families.  Similarly, other complaints made to the Commission suggest employers are uncertain of their duty to accommodate employees who have caregiving responsibilities.  “Combine examples like these with dramatic changes in family structures over the last two decades, and the need for consultation on these issues is clear,” Norton added.  The Commission will be seeking input on how employers, landlords, and service providers can accommodate the needs of individuals with children or who have other caregiving responsibilities, and respect the growing diversity in families in Ontario.

The Commission’s consultation will also examine whether to recommend the Code be expanded to cover a broader range of dependent relationships. Currently, the Codeprohibits discrimination because of family status, but its application is limited to situations where the individual experiencing discrimination is in a parent-child relationship.  The definition of family status under the Code does not protect, for example, an individual who is providing long-term care for a brother or sister living with a disability, or for an aging aunt or grandparent. 

The Commission’s Discussion Paper is a first step in its examination of human rights and family status issues.  Individuals and families are encouraged to share personal accounts of their experiences through an online questionnaire available on the Commission’s Web site. Interested organizations, advocates, researchers and individuals who wish to respond in detail may make submissions based on issues and questions raised in the Discussion Paper.

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


Jeff Poirier
Senior Policy Analyst
Policy Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch (PEMO)
Ontario Human Rights Commission