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A policy primer: Guide to developing human rights policies and procedures

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Approved by the Ontario Human Rights Commission: June 19, 1996
Revised by the OHRC: December 2013
Available in various accessible formats

1. Introduction

The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) states that it is public policy in Ontario to recognize the dignity and worth of every person and to provide equal rights and opportunities without discrimination. The aim is to create a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person, so that each person feels a part of and able to contribute to the community.

The purpose of this guide is to provide organizations with some practical help for developing effective and fair ways to prevent human rights infringements, and for responding to human rights issues such as harassment, discrimination and accommodation needs. Employers, landlords and service providers all have an obligation to make sure that human rights are respected, and can all benefit from the information provided in this publication.

Each organization differs in its needs, constraints, structures, culture and resources. There is no “one size fits all” way to prevent and address discrimination and harassment. Large organizations will have different needs and capacities than small; a housing provider will have a different focus than an employer. This guide provides ideas and advice, but each organization will need to tailor its approaches.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has developed policies and guides on many specific human rights issues, such as racism and racial discrimination, sexual and gender-based harassment, disability accommodation, pregnancy and breastfeeding, age discrimination, gender identity, sexual orientation and family status. This guide does not try to replicate the issues covered in these policies. It focuses on organizational policies and procedures instead of on identifying specific human rights issues and standards. We encourage you to carefully review OHRC policies and guidelines that are relevant to you, to develop an understanding of your human rights obligations and to help you identify potential barriers and issues specific to your situation.

How to use this guide

This guide includes a discussion of each of the key things to consider when developing human rights policies and procedures. It also includes sample language that you can modify to meet your organization’s needs and focus – just look for the indented sections.

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