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8. Education and training programs

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A. Description and rationale

Education and training are core elements of any organization’s human rights strategy. They are central to any effort to build a “human rights culture” within an organization. Education and training can deepen understanding and awareness of human rights issues, and build support for the organization’s human rights initiatives. As well, every member of the organization should have a solid understanding of their rights and responsibilities under the Code, and of the organization’s policies, programs and procedures for preventing and addressing human rights issues.

However, education is not a “cure-all” for all human rights issues. For example, education will not, on its own, remove systemic barriers. Education works best along with a strong proactive strategy to prevent and remove barriers to equal participation, and effective policies and procedures for addressing human rights issues that do arise.

B. Considerations

On an ongoing basis, organizations should monitor human rights issues that affect them, and provide their members with human rights education that is timely and appropriate.

An effective human rights education program will include training on:

  • Organizational policies and procedures related to human rights
  • The principles and specific provisions of the Code
  • General human rights issues such as racism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, etc.[22]

Training must be tailored to the specific needs of the various members of the organization.[23] All members of the organization will need to be aware of their rights. As well, specific education is required for the people responsible for:

  • Complying with policies (everyone)
  • Implementing policies (managers, supervisors)
  • Providing expert advice, ensuring compliance (for example, HR)
  • Overall human rights strategy (for example, the CEO).

Organizations should ensure that those who carry out human rights training have expertise in the specific subject area.

Training should emphasize that human rights policies and programs are in harmony with the organization’s objectives, and have the full support of senior management.

Human rights education should not be a one-time event. Ongoing training should be provided to address developing issues, and regular refreshers provided to all staff. The effectiveness of training should be monitored, and any identified gaps should be promptly addressed.

C. Elements

1. General human rights training

Human rights education is essential to developing a “human rights culture” within the organization, one that supports the values and principles that underlie the Code. Without an understanding of human rights issues, and support for a human rights culture, human rights policies and procedures are unlikely to succeed.

Beyond knowledge of the legal rights and responsibilities set out in the Code, it is important to understand discrimination and harassment related to the various Code grounds, and how they manifest themselves. For example, it will be very difficult for an organization to address and prevent systemic racial discrimination without educating its members about what racism is, how it operates, common manifestations of racism and racial discrimination, and the legacy of racism in Canada.

2. Training on the Ontario Human Rights Code

All members of the organization should know the principles of the Code, and their legal rights and responsibilities related to human rights. People responsible for developing organizational strategy, policies and procedures on human rights issues will need more in-depth training on human rights laws, and regular updates on new issues, policies and legal developments.

3. Training on organizational policies and procedures

Organizations should make sure that all members are aware of internal human rights policies and procedures. Everyone should know what the standards are, what their rights and responsibilities are under the policies and procedures, and how they can get advice or assistance on human rights issues. Provide everyone with policies and procedures, together with training, when they are introduced. Share them with newcomers when they join the organization, and provide everyone with regular reminders and refreshers.

Persons who will be responsible for implementing human rights policies and procedures will need more extensive training and information. This includes managers and supervisors, as well as staff who may receive, investigate, mediate or decide on complaints or accommodation requests.

[22] See the OHRC’s policies on these issues online at

[23] Szyluk v. United Food and Commercial Workers Canada, 2010 HRTO 2051 (CanLII)


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