The OHRC and the Human Rights Code at 60

60 years of the Ontario Human Rights Code

The Ontario Human Rights Code was established in 1962 to make Ontario a place that recognizes the dignity and worth of every person, where people are able to enjoy equal rights and opportunities without discrimination. On June 15, 2022, the Code turns 60. For the past 60 years, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has been working to protect, promote and advance human rights in the province through education, policy development, public inquiries and litigation. We are not doing this work alone. Many people across Ontario are also making important contributions to advance human rights and equity – and we invite all Ontarians to celebrate these contributions.


Celebrate the past, embrace the future

For 60 years, the OHRC has moved forward together with the communities it serves. As important members of those communities, we invite you to help us celebrate the past and move into the future. Here are the things to watch for:


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Daniel G. Hill Human Rights Awards


People across Ontario are making important contributions to advance human rights and equity, many of which go unacknowledged. Each of our collective successes have started with a single step, by someone who had an idea for how to make Ontario a better place to live. And each collective success in the future will also rely on individual vision, advocacy and imagination.

The Daniel G. Hill Awards will help to showcase how the work of people across Ontario is forever altering the human rights landscape in a positive way. The awards are named after Daniel G. Hill, who was the first director and first Black chair of the OHRC. Dr. Hill was one of the earliest human rights visionaries, who set a solid legacy that we have all worked to follow and that still resonates today.

The awards were given in three categories:

  • Young Leaders, awarded to a person under age 30 for their outstanding contribution to advancing human rights in Ontario
  • Distinguished Service, awarded for outstanding contribution to advancing human rights
  • Lifetime Achievement, awarded to an individual for significant contributions over their lifetime to advance human rights.

The OHRC received dozens of nominations, and choosing recipients was a very challenging process since there were so many deserving candidates. A special committee, which included members from the OHRC’s Community Advisory Group, reviewed and short-listed the nominations, and the final decision was made by the OHRC Commissioners.


Meet the award recipients

Young Leaders: Autumn Peltier

Autumn Peltier is Anishinaabe-kwe, a member of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation. She is a water protector who began her fight for Indigenous Canadians’ right to clean drinking water when she was eight years old. She is the Chief Water Commissioner for Anishinabek Nation in Ontario, where she represents 39 First Nations and is responsible for relaying community concerns to the Anishinabek Council.

Autumn’s ability to tenderly extract a promise from Prime Minister Trudeau at age 12 – to care for the water – is a legacy that will inspire people for a long time. 

Autumn leads by example – and speaks truth to power. She has campaigned for water protection around the world and spoken at the World Economic Forum in Geneva and the United Nations, where she urged the global delegates to respect the sacredness and importance of clean water. At home, her focus is on boil water advisories and lack of clean drinking water in First Nations communities in Ontario and across Canada.

Autumn also created a short documentary, “The Water Walker,” which was released in March on Crave Canada.

She is one of the leading youth changers in the world today, and is recognized by organizations and global platforms for her perseverance. Young people – and people of all ages – are engaged and inspired by her commitment to working with communities – collaborating, listening, and letting people have a say while making a critical connection between the environment and human rights.


Distinguished Service: Rabia Khedr

Rabia Khedr has worked for over 30 years to advance disability rights, through her own experience and bringing forward the voices of marginalized people, people of colour, women, and people with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities. Her accomplishments range from serving as a former Commissioner at the OHRC, to serving on national disability advisory groups, to co-chairing the Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force.

She co-founded the Race and Disability Canada network to advocate for racialized individuals with disabilities, established DEEN Support Services to ensure culturally and spiritually relevant services for individuals with disabilities, and is currently the National Director of Disability Without Poverty, an organization that is working to ensure people with disabilities have the supports necessary to avoid poverty and to take part in every aspect of society.

Rabia consistently breaks barriers and changes perceptions with her vast knowledge and experience working with people with disabilities, racialized women, seniors, youth, and diverse communities. She is a tireless community organizer who advocates for disability justice causes at all political levels.

Rabia has served with distinction, and continues to reimagine ways one person can be the start of something big in advancing human rights.


Lifetime Achievement: Kim (Brooks) Bernhardt

Kim (Brooks) Bernhardt began her human rights legacy at the genesis of the OHRC. Kim accompanied her parents to meetings where key citizens like Louis Fine and Dr. Hill would meet to strategize for lobbying the government to create the Commission.

One evening, feeling that she had been “dragged” to one too many meetings, a defiant Kim informed her parents that she would not go along to another “stupid” meeting. At that stupid meeting was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She still regrets that decision. Later, Kim worked with Daniel G. Hill as a summer student and intern in the 1970s and served as a human rights officer from 1978 to 1984.

After being called to the bar in 1993, Kim worked in human rights and equity with the Ontario Nurses Association, and was the first person of colour to serve as a research officer. She was instrumental in implementing a strategic plan for anti-racism organizational change at the Ontario Nurses Association, with priorities and timeframes for promoting and training members-of-colour and establishing a system to advance human rights cases, which is still in place today.

Kim also played a significant role in the Northwestern Hospital settlement in 1994, which was the first extensive Commission settlement requiring anti-racism organizational change. As well, Kim has extensively promoted employment equity, through volunteer work with the Alliance for Employment Equity and the Women's Coalition for Employment Equity, just to name two of the many organizations she has been involved with.

Through the Association of Human Rights Lawyers, Kim played a pivotal role in the 2008 amendments to the Human Rights Code, and in advocating for the OHRC to retain a proactive role in human rights in Ontario.

Kim has served Ontario’s communities as a child, as a student, as a lawyer, an advocate, a teacher, a community partner, and most importantly, as a friend with vision and leadership to the benefit of communities across our province.  Her long list of contributions and accomplishments say strongly that she is a dedicated leader here in Ontario and beyond Canada’s borders.


Lifetime Achievement: David Lepofsky

David Lepofsky, a lawyer who is blind, has spent much of his career supporting Ontarians with disabilities, and is recognized across Canada as a disability/accessibility advocate.

A member of the Ontario Bar since 1981, and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law since 1991, David has tackled disability issues with a unique combination of creativity and tenacity. As a lawyer with the Ontario Public Service, he served in civil and constitutional law, and in criminal law where he led appeals up to the Supreme Court of Canada. Throughout this time, he was a staunch advocate for people with disabilities.

The list of David’s accomplishments is long. He was instrumental in winning two important cases against the Toronto Transit Commission to create audible and visual transit stop announcements – an innovation that has been adopted beyond Ontario to other parts of Canada and even other countries. David also played a key advocacy role in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) becoming law in June 2005.

As the chair of the AODA Alliance, David has continued to hold the government to account on fulfilling the AODA’s promise. And his work as a member of the AODA Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee has the potential to benefit students for generations to come.

David is a world-renowned lecturer, author and advocate. His work has been marked by the bestowal of the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, honorary doctorates from Queens, the University of Western Ontario and Brock University, and many other awards for his tireless work, which continues to change the landscape for people with disabilities in Ontario.


Human Rights @ 60 virtual conference

On June 23 2022, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Toronto Metropolitan University's Human Rights Services and the Lincoln Alexander School of Law held a virtual conference to mark the 60th anniversary of Ontario's Human Rights Code, and to explore new directions for human rights law and policy.
Watch Toronto Metropolitan University's livestream of the event here.


Microsoft Office document icon Human Rights @ 60- Conference Agenda276.5 KB

The OHRC's 60th anniversary celebrations

View our virtual celebration!

On March 29, 2021, the OHRC marked its 60th anniversary with a virtual celebration. This YouTube event on March 29 marked the start of a 15-month period of commemoration and celebration of both the OHRC’s 60th anniversary and the 60th anniversary of Ontario’s Human Rights Code in June 2022.

The video features a variety of visionaries from the past and the present, who share their personal experiences advancing human rights in Ontario, and add their thoughts on what the future holds.

View the celebration:


Photo credits in the order they appear:
  1. Daniel G. Hill was the first director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. (Photo: Daniel G. Hill fonds, Archives of Ontario)
  2. Walter Currie was one of the first two members of Ontario's Human Rights Commission (OHRC), and served from 1972 to 1974. (Photo: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
  3. Thomas Symons served as chairman of the OHRC from 1975 to 1978. (Photo courtesy of the Symons family)
  4. Dorothea Crittenden, first woman to head the OHRC from 1978 to 1982. (Photo: Toronto Public Library)
  5. Borden Purcell holding the OHRC’s 1980 annual report. He was the chair of the OHRC from 1978 to 1982. (Photo: Toronto Star Photograph Archive, courtesy of Toronto Public Library)
  6. Fran Endicott was chief commissioner from Sept. 1992 to Nov. 1992. (Photos courtesy of Barb Thomas, D'Arcy Martin)
  7. Catherine Frazee was chief commissioner from 1989 to 1992. (Photo: Wikipedia)
  8. Rosemary Brown was chief commissioner from 1993 to 1996. (Photo: from Being Brown, by Rosemary Brown)
  9. Keith Norton was chief commissioner from 1996 to 2005.
  10. Renu Mandhane served as chief commissioner from 2015 to 2020.
  11. Hugh Burnett was one of the leading activists in a collective charge to embed anti-discrimination and anti-racism in Ontario’s legislation and society. (Photo 1: Amherstburg Freedom/Twitter; Photo 2: The Candian Encyclopedia)
  12. Bromley Armstrong, Ruth Lor in 2012 at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  13. Bromley Armstrong from 1979, member of the OHRC and ex-president of the Jamaican Canadian Association (Photo: Toronto Star Photograph Archive, courtesy of Toronto Public Library)
  14. Alan Borovoy in 2012 at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  15. Bromley Armstrong, Alan Borovoy and Ruth Lor reminisce about their days as activists at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ontario’s Human Rights Code, 2012.
  16. Daniel G. Hill, co-founder of the Ontario Black History Society, and the first director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. (Photo: Daniel G. Hill fonds, Archives of Ontario)
  17. Daniel G. Hill and his three sisters when they were teenagers, ca. 1937–1939. (Photo: Daniel G. Hill fonds, Archives of Ontario)
  18. Daniel G. Hill (left) and Attorney General Roy McMurtry (right) at a reception for the Ontario Black History Society on February 16, 1981. (Photo: Daniel G. Hill fonds, Archives of Ontario)
  19. Daniel G. Hill at home with family, ca. 1958. (Photo: Daniel G. Hill fonds, Archives of Ontario)
  20. Life Together OHRC report, 1977.
  21. 1974 A ‘psychology of fear' is growing among black and Asian immigrants in Toronto because moderate citizens seem indifferent to extremist attacks on minorities, says Robert McPhee, director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. (Photo: Toronto Star Photograph Archive, courtesy of Toronto Public Library)
  22. Wheel Trans van #703 heads eastbound on Queen Street in front of City Hall on August 27, 1980. (Photo: L. Swanson, courtesy of the John Knight Collection).
  23. Assistant helping person who uses a wheelchair onto an accessible van ramp. (Photo: Getty Images)
  24. Justine Blainey in 1995. (Photo: Toronto Star Photo Archive, courtesy of Toronto Public Library)
  25. Justine Blainey in 1988. (Photo: Toronto Star Photo Archive, courtesy of Toronto Public Library)
  26. Indian bridegroom holding a kirpan, a ceremonial dagger. (Photo: Getty Images)
  27. Classroom in blur background (Photo: Getty Images)
  28. Harbhajan Singh Pandori displays his kirpan, a ceremonial dagger, in front of a Mississauga skyline (Photo: Toronto Star Photo Archive, courtesy of Toronto Public Library)
  29. Peel Board of Education, H.J.A. Brown Education Centre (Photo: Toronto Star Photo Archive, courtesy of Toronto Public Library)
  30. Human Rights Board of Inquiry decision, Harbajan Singh Pandori and the Ontario Human Rights Commission v The Peel Board of Education (Internet Archive:
  31. Rev. Brent Hawkes, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church photographed in 1985. (Photo: Toronto Star Photo Archive, courtesy of Toronto Public Library)
  32. Pride Parade Flags (Photo: Getty Images)
  33. Photos from Selwyn Pieters/Twitter
  34. Sharmaine Hall, Executive Director of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, speaking at the launch of the OHRC’s Policy on eliminating racial profiling in law enforcement in 2019.
  35. Photos from Human Rights Legal Support Centre/Twitter
  36. Barbara Hall in 2012 at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  37. Barbara Hall speaks at the launch of Minds that Matter, the OHRC consultation report on human rights, mental health and addictions, 2012.
  38. Photos from the launch of Fishing without Fear, the OHRC’s final report on its inquiry into assaults on Asian Canadian anglers, 2009.
  39. OHRC Commissioner Maurice Switzer displays key objects related to Ontario’s Treaty relationship with Indigenous peoples at an OHRC staff training event, 2017. 
  40. Sylvia Maracle, Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, speaks at the launch of Under Suspicion, the OHRC’s research and consultation report on racial profiling in Ontario, 2017. 


View the promotional trailer:



About the OHRC

Learn about how the OHRC protects and advances human rights today, and the people who are helping us drive the 60-year vision forward. 

About the Commission

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From the archives

Dr. Daniel G. Hill memorializes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On April 9, 1968, Dr. Daniel G. Hill, the OHRC’s first Director and Commissioner, spoke at the memorial service held at Nathan Phillips Square for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee five days previously. The service was held under the combined sponsorship of the City of Toronto, religious, labour and community organizations.

Dr. Hill concluded his tribute with the following words:

Martin Luther King’s death will serve to remind us that in our relationships with our fellow men we must always be motivated by the highest ideals, the finest humanitarian principles and an underlying love for all mankind.

Read Dr. Daniel G. Hill’s statement given at the memorial service for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

[PDF of original statement]

[PDF of statement (accessible version)]


Muhammad Ali and the Ontario Human Rights Code 
On March 29, 2021, the day of the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) 60th anniversary, the Toronto Star ran an in-depth, multi-page photo feature story on the 55th anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s famous Toronto boxing match. This incredibly popular article, called “How Muhammad Ali’s iconic Canadian debut brought Ontario’s human rights code into focus,” showcased Ali, his civil rights activism and Canada’s first human rights statute, our very own Ontario Human Rights Code (Code).
In March 1966, Ali arrived in Toronto for his historic match against Toronto boxer George Chuvalo at Maple Leaf Gardens. In the days leading up to this legendary fight, Ali gave a rousing and remarkable interview about his motivation for changing his name. Ali emphasized that “Clay was not my name. We want to be called after names of our people, names that fit us Black people and Clay was a White man’s name, it was a slave name, and I am no longer a slave.” A prominent symbol displayed in that interview was the Ontario Human Rights Code, which served as the backdrop to Ali declaring his right to assert his identity as a free Black man. 



Check out our annual reports from the past that help to tell the story of how the OHRC and Ontario’s Human Rights Code have evolved over the past six decades.

Looking back, moving forward (2010–2011) details many of the key historical moments in the evolution of the OHRC, and includes the thoughts and vision of many of the human rights pioneers in Ontario.

Human Rights: The next generation (2011–2012) charts the history of the Code, and offers an interesting look to the future.

Watch for more archival information, which will be added regularly over the coming months.


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