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Across the curriculum: ideas for other activities

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This section includes ideas for other curriculum areas, like role-play techniques in drama classes. Where appropriate, additional references have been provided, but many of the resources are already in this package. For example, to do role-plays during dramatic arts activities, use the case studies in the Students' handouts.

Language arts

Have the class research language that has been used to define human rights since the mid 1950s. How has it changed? Have new words and expressions been created? Have the meanings of words altered over time?

Organize a debate on the merits of freedom of speech and belief versus the right to protection from discrimination. However, approach this activity with caution. It is important to give both sides of the discussion equal consideration, and to treat the feelings and rights of everyone with the utmost care and sensitivity.

Have the group discuss the question: Where do the rights of the individual end and those of the group begin? Should this boundary change in certain cases? Encourage students to read one or more books related to human rights, such as Joy Kogawa's Obasan, Timothy Findlay's Not Wanted on the Voyage, Lawrence Hill’s Book of Negroes.

Have students keep a journal where they can reflect on the human rights issues covered in this package.

Encourage students to write poems, plays or short stories about incidents involving human rights issues that either they, their friends or their families have encountered. They may expand this activity by starting a class or school human rights newsletter.

Connect with the Living Rights Project: Have your students submit articles, essays, poems, creative writing songs, videos or any other creative endeavour, on human rights in Ontario, or on their personal experience related to one of the Code grounds. This project is an online “living library” that is designed to be a helpful classroom tool that adds a human face to human rights issues. For more details, go to the OHRC website at


Students can research and develop an improvisation based on an actual human rights case. Case summaries in this package include:

  • BC (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) vBC Government and Service Employees Union (Meiorin)
  • Kyle Maclean v. The Barking Frog  
  • Maria Vanderputen v. Seydaco Packaging Corp. and Gerry Sanvido (No. 2, 3 and 4)
  • Cameron vNel-Gor Castle Nursing Home
  • Marc Hall v. Powers
  • Eldridge vBritish Columbia (Attorney General)
  • Huck vCanadian Odeon Theatres
  • Noffke v. McClaskin Hot House
  • Pandori vPeel Board of Education
  • Québec and Mercier vCity of Montréal
  • Youth Bowling Council of Ontario vMcLeod.

Have senior-level students create a contemporary, interactive dramatic presentation to help their peers and younger students learn about the different types of discrimination and why the Ontario Human Rights Code exists.

Students might compare Canada's human rights legislation to similar legislation in other countries. This activity will probably require a good deal of research. They can create a title for the final piece and present it at a school or class drama festival. You might consider videotaping the production. If you make a video, again consider submitting it to the OHRC’s Living Rights Project.

Family studies

Students could chart the demographic histories of various racial and ethnic groups in Ontario, such as Aboriginal Peoples, people of African or Chinese descent. They might also look at shifts in Ontario's multicultural population since 1945. Do our social institutions acknowledge and reflect our cultural diversity?

How has society's understanding of the concept of family changed, and what effect is this having on human rights?

What social changes have come about since more women have entered the workforce?

Why do we need special programs designed to relieve hardship or economic disadvantage or to assist disadvantaged persons or groups to achieve equal opportunity? The class may present debates, simulated interviews and videos advertising the benefits of such programs. Consider submitting your students’ work to the Living Rights Project.


Have students review the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution of the United States and look at the rights guaranteed to people living in each country. They could then develop a list of rights and protections outlined in each country and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each system.

Students could research the reasons for the development of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and explore its value to Canadian society since its introduction. For more information, see the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute’s website at

Ask the following questions:

  • Why has the human rights movement developed since the 1940s?
  • What happened in society during that time?
  • What do you think is different when you compare society today and society in the 1950s?

The Living Rights Project includes a history section, where students can see people talking from personal experience about the changes in our society. For example,
see the video “Jean Augustine – A job, a home, but not to you.”

Media literacy

Have students monitor the media for its coverage of human rights issues. Keep a journal for a one-week period noting what gets coverage on radio or television. Save clippings from the local newspapers. What is the “spin” that the reporter takes? Does it take a pro human rights position?

Have students review some local newspaper classified ads. Do broadcast and print ads reflect the principles of human rights as they understand them? They could create a survey with appropriate questions and find out what others think.

What is the relationship between propaganda and the rights and freedoms of individuals and groups? How is this debate expressed in the news media? For more information on this topic, see the web site:
The Living Rights Project also includes some interesting stories about how human rights pioneers used the media to make change happen. For example, see the video clip featuring Alan Borovoy: “No room for your coloured maid.”


Encourage your students to collect songs and music inspired by the human rights movement. Bring in your own collection and listen to the music selections with the class. How many Canadian compositions relate to this topic?

Have students write lyrics and compose music for an original song that expresses their beliefs about human rights. It you videotape these, consider submitting the videos to the Living Rights Project.

Visual arts and multi-media

Symbols are powerful tools. Can students identify local, national and international symbols connected with human rights? As a class, group or individual project, ask them to create a visual interpretation of the meaning of human rights. Ask them to share their talent by submitting their work to the Living Rights Project – and while they are there, check out the oil painting of the service dog!

Human rights activities in your school

Encourage students to start a club or association in your school to deal with social issues. The following objectives could be incorporated into the club's mission statement:

  • To raise awareness of local, national and international issues concerning human rights
  • To take a proactive role in stopping and preventing harassment and discrimination within the school and community environment.

All school boards in Ontario are now required to develop and implement policies on equity and inclusive education. Find out what your school is doing and how you can become involved.

Consider researching issues of gender, disability, sexual orientation, racial, ethnic and cultural equality in the school and community. If your school board has consultants who work in the areas of anti-discrimination and equal opportunity, they can provide support for such initiatives.

To explore international human rights issues, consider setting up an Amnesty International chapter in the school. Contact a local chapter of the Association for more information, or visit their website at

Raising awareness

Many activities can help build awareness of human rights issues. Students might organize:

  • Assemblies that feature short theatrical productions, debates or readings on human rights issues
  • Poster or essay contests
  • Visits from community associations that represent groups protected by the Code
  • Conferences on human rights issues for peers and/or students in younger grades.

Have a “Human Rights Award” in your school. The award will recognize the individual or group from the school who makes a significant contribution to educating others about human rights and the effects of discrimination.

Coordinate these and similar activities with special human rights events that happen in Canada each year. They include:

  • International Human Rights Day (December 10)
  • International Women's Day (March 8)
  • International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21).

International Human Rights Day commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.

Other annual events include Black History Month (February), Heritage Day (usually the third week in February), Asian Heritage Month (May), National Aboriginal day (June 21) the anniversary of Ontario Human Rights Code (June 15), Pride Week (June), and National Access Awareness Week for persons with disabilities (May/June).

Dealing with discrimination

All school boards are required to develop and implement equity and inclusive education policies. In addition to drafting these policies, many Ontario school boards have set up an internal complaints process. This ensures that schools deal with complaints promptly and in a way that respects the rights of both the people who complain and the people who are subjects of the complaint. For more information, visit the OHRC’s website ( and view the publication Guidelines on developing human rights policies and procedures.

Case study references

Most decisions on the human rights cases cited in this resource can be found in the Canadian Human Rights Reporter, which is available in several reference and law libraries. Visit their website at As well, many newer cases
are available online at Specific references are given below:

  • Kyle McLean v. Barking Frog
  • Maria Vanderputen v. Seydaco Packaging Corp. and Gerry Sanvido (No. 2, 3 and 4).
  • British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) vBritish Columbia Government and Service Employees Union (1999), 35 C.H.R.R. D/257 (Supreme Court of Canada).
  • Cameron vNel-Gor Castle Nursing Home (1984), 5 C.H.R.R. D/2170 (Ontario Board of Inquiry).
  • Eldridge vBritish Columbia (Attorney General) (1997) 3 S.C.R. 624. (see
  • Hall v. Powers, Ont. Superior Court 2002
  • Huck vCanadian Odeon Theatres Ltd. (1985), 6 C.H.R.R. D/2682 (Saskatchewan Court of Appeal).
  • Huck vCanadian Odeon Theatres Ltd. (1981), 2 C.H.R.R. D/521 (Saskatchewan Board of Inquiry).
  • Maclean vThe Barking Frog, 2013 HRTO 630 (CanLII)
  • McLeod vYouth Bowling Council of Ontario (1988), 9 C.H.R.R. D/5371 (Ontario Board of Inquiry).
  • Noffke vMcClaskin Hot House (1989), 11 C.H.R.R. D/407 (Ontario Board of Inquiry).
  • Pandori vPeel Board of Education (1990), 12 C.H.R.R. D/364 (Ontario Board of Inquiry).
  • Peel Board of Education vOntario (Human Rights Commission) (1990), 12 C.H.R.R. D/91 (Ontario Supreme Court).
  • Peel Board of Education v. Ontario (Human Rights Commission) and Pandori (1991), 14 C.H.R.R. D/403 (Ontario Divisional Court).
  • Québec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse) et Mercier vMontréal (Ville) (2000), 37 C.H.R.R. D/271 (Supreme Court of Canada)
  • Ross v. New Brunswick School District No. 15, SCC 1996
  • Smith v. Knights of Columbus, BCHRT 2005
  • Vanderputten v. Seydaco Packaging Corp 2012 HRTO 1977
  • Youth Bowling Council of Ontario vMcLeod (1990), 14 C.H.R.R. D/120 (Ontario Divisional Court).

Human rights resources

The following resources focus on human rights. For information on specific types of discrimination related to groups protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code, see
Other information sources.”

Reference books

  • Abella, Judge R., Report of the Commission on Equality in EmploymentOttawa, 1985.

  • Aggarwal, A.P., Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 2nd ed., Butterworths,Toronto, 1992.

  • Aggarwal, A.P., Sexual Harassment: A Guide for Understanding and Prevention, Butterworths, Toronto, 1992.

  • Backhouse, ConstanceColour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1999.

  • Foster, Lorne et al.(eds),  Balancing Competing Human Rights Claims in a Diverse Society: Institutions, Policy, Principles, Irwin Law Press, Toronto, 2012.

  • Bayefsky, A., & Eberts, M. (eds.), Equality Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Carswell, Toronto, 1985.

  • Brodsky, G., and Day, S., Canadian Charter Equality Rights for Women: One Step Forward or Two Steps Back?, Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Ottawa, 1989.

  • Cholewinski, R.I. (ed.), Human Rights in Canada: Into the 1990s and Beyond, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, 1990.

  • Gall, G. (ed.), Civil Liberties in Canada: Entering the 1980s, Butterworths, Toronto, 1982.

  • Grosman, B.A., and Martin, J.R., Discrimination in Employment in Ontario, Canada Law Book Inc., Aurora, 1994.

  • Kallen, Evelyn, Ethnic and Human Rights in Canada, Oxford University Press, 2010

  • Kallen, Evelyn, Social Inequality and Social Injustice: A Human Rights Perspective, 2004.

  • Kallen, Evelyn, Ethnicity and Human Rights in Canada: A Human Rights Perspective on Race, Ethnicity, Racism and Systemic Inequality, 2003.

  • Keene, J., Human Rights in Ontario, 2nd ed., Carswell, Toronto, 1992.

  • Sheppard, C., Study Paper on Litigating the Relationship Between Equity and Equality, Ontario Law Reform Commission, Toronto, 1993.

  • Tarnopolsky, W.S., and Pentney, W.F., Discrimination and the Law, 2nd ed., Carswell, Toronto, 1993.

  • A Guide to the Charter for Equality-Seeking Groups, Canadian Council on Social Development, Court Challenges Program, Ottawa, 1987.

eLearning materials

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has developed several electronic learning modules to help members of the public understand their rights and responsibilities under the Code. These may be particularly informative for students. See the OHRC website at:

Other information sources

Canadian Human Rights Commission

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) enforces the Canadian Human Rights Act, which governs the federal government and federally-regulated companies like banks, railways and airlines. Included in its mandate are the federal Employment Equity and Pay Equity programs.

The following CHRC materials may be requested by phone, mail or on the Internet (


Policy on Alcohol and Drug Testing (2009)
Aboriginal Employment Preferences Policy (2003)
Policy and Procedures on the Accommodation of Mental Illness (2008)
Policy on Special Programs
Pregnancy & Human Rights in the Workplace - Policy and Best Practices


The Human Rights Impact Assessment for Security Measures
A Template for Developing a Workplace Accommodation Policy
A Template for Developing an Anti-Harassment Policy
Pregnancy and Human Rights in the Workplace – A Guide for Employers 
The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities
Accommodation for Environmental Sensitivities: Legal Perspective


Annual Reports (1996 – 2011)
"Accommodation in the 21st Century," Gwen Brodsky, Shelagh Day and Yvonne Peters
Anti-Discrimination Casebook: Race, Colour, National or Ethnic Origin
Anti-Harassment Policies for the Workplace: An Employer's Guide
Bona Fide Occupational Requirements and Bona Fide Justifications under the Canadian Human Rights Act – The Implications of Meiorin and Grismer
Brochure on “Conciliation”
Discrimination Prevention Program Fact Sheet
Duty to Accommodate Fact Sheet
Duty to Accommodate – Frequently Asked Questions
Brochure on “Early Resolution”
Employment Equity Compliance Program Fact Sheet
Employment Systems Review: Guide to the Audit Process
Report on Equality Rights of People with Disabilities
Fair Play at Work
Framework Document for Compliance Audits under the Employment Equity Act – Audit Process and Statutory Requirements
Frequently Asked Questions on Employment Equity
Guide for Managing the Return to Work
Guide to Screening and Selection in Employment
Guide to the Canadian Human Rights Act
Harassment and the Canadian Human Rights Act
Harassment: What is it and what to do about it
Human Rights Handbook for First Nations 
Human Rights Maturity Model – Continuum
Human Rights Maturity Model – Information Pamphlet
Human Rights Maturity Model – Implementation Guide
Brochure on “Investigation”
Brochure on “Mediation”
Brochure on “Other Redress Procedures”
Place for All: A Guide to Creating an Inclusive Workplace
Brochure on “Settlement Monitoring”
Brochure on “Tribunal Hearings”
Your Guide to Understanding the Canadian Human Rights Act (2010)

For more information contact:

The Canadian Human Rights Commission
344 Slater Street, 8th floor
Ottawa, ON  K1A 1E1

Tel.: 613-995-1151
TTY: 1-888-643-3304
Fax: 613-996-9661

Canadian Human Rights Reporter (C.H.R.R.)

This publication prints the full text of most human rights decisions from all jurisdictions in Canada, in two or three volumes per year. Decisions handed down by tribunals and courts often break new ground in interpreting anti-discrimination law and equality rights in cases involving issues such as harassment, race discrimination, affirmative action, disability, maternity and pension benefits, sexual orientation and mandatory retirement. C.H.R.R. is available in most public reference libraries and law libraries. 

For more information go to:

To search decisions, go to www.

Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

655 Bay Street, 14th floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2A3

Tel.:                             416-326-1312
Toll free:                     1-866-598-0322
TTY:                            416-326-2027
TTY (toll free):            1-866-607-1240

Human Rights Legal Support Centre

180 Dundas Street West, 8th floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 0A1

Tel.:                             416-597-4900
Toll free:                     1-866-625-5179
TTY:                            416-597-4903
TTY (toll free):            1-866 612-8627 

Ontario Human Rights Commission

180 Dundas Street West, 9th floor
Toronto, Ontario  M7A 2R9

Tel.:                             416-326-9511 or
Toll free:                     1-800-387-9080
TTY:                            416-314-6526
TTY (toll free):            1-800-308-5561

OHRC publications available online –

Plain language guides

Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensing (2013)
In the zone: Housing, human rights and municipal planning (2012)
Human rights and policing: Creating and sustaining organizational change (2011)
Special programs and the Ontario Human Rights Code – A self-help guide (2013)
Anti-racism and anti-discrimination for municipalities: Introductory manual (2010)
Count me in! Collecting human rights-based data (2010)         
Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code (2013)
Human Rights at Work, third edition (2008)
Policy primer: Guidelines on developing human rights policies and procedures (2013)  
Guidelines for collecting data on enumerated grounds under the Code (2010)

Policies and guidelines

Policy on removing the “Canadian experience” barrier
Policy on competing human rights (2012)
Policy on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment (2011)
Policy on human rights and rental housing (2009)
Guidelines on accessible education (2004)
Policy on discrimination because of pregnancy and breastfeeding (2008)
Policy and guidelines on discrimination because of family status (2007)
Policy on discrimination against older people because of age (2002)
Policy on discrimination and harassment because of sexual orientation (2000)
Policy and guidelines on racism and racial discrimination (2005)
Policy and guidelines on disability and the duty to accommodate (2000)
Policy on drug and alcohol testing (2000)
Policy on discrimination and harassment because of gender identity (2000)
Policy on female genital mutilation (FGM) (2000)
Policy on scholarships and awards (1997)
Policy on HIV/AIDS related discrimination (1996)
Policy on creed and the accommodation of religious observances (1996)
Policy on requiring a driver’s license as a condition of employment (1996)
Policy on height and weight requirements (1996)
Policy on employment-related medical information (1996)
Policy on discrimination and language (1996)

Other publications

Annual reports
Minds That Matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions (2012)
Fishing without fear: Report on the inquiry into assaults on Asian Canadian anglers (2008)
Right at home: Report on the consultation on human rights and rental housing in Ontario (2008)
"Next stop, accessibility": Report on the inquiry into public transit stop announcements in Ontario (2008)
Moving towards barrier-free services: Final report on the restaurant accessibility initiative(2006)

Let us know how we’re doing

This guide is a work in progress, and we need your help to continue to refine it. Please take a moment to complete the evaluation below. Your comments will help us design future education materials that will work in your classroom.

By email:

Please copy the questions on this form, paste it into the body of an email and send it to: Make the subject heading “Teaching human rights in Ontario.”

By mail:

Please complete this form and mail it to:

Teaching human rights in Ontario

Policy, Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch
Ontario Human Rights Commission
180 Dundas Street West, 9th floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2R9


Please give us information about the students with whom you used this package:

School and School Board: _________________________________________________

Location: _______________________________________________________________

Course Name: ___________________________________________________________

Age and/or grade level: ____________________________________________________

How did you get this package? ______________________________________________

1.   Before using this package, how much did you know about the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Ontario human rights system?

       ð nothing                          ð some                       ð a great deal

2.   Considering the design of the package as well as the content, how easy was it to use with your students?

       ð very easy          ð easy                        ð somewhat hard          ð very hard

3.   How effective were the package/exercises/handouts in helping students to understand their rights and responsibilities under the Code, and the roles of the various human rights agencies in protecting and enforcing those rights?

       ð quite effective              ð somewhat effective           ð not effective

4.   What exercises or handouts did you find particularly helpful?







5.   What exercises or handouts did you find least helpful?







6.   What type of information or material would you find most useful in the future?







7.   Any comments on the package as a whole?





If you have developed any materials on human rights (exercises, case studies, etc.) and would like to share them with your colleagues, we would like to know about it. Please send a copy along with relevant instructions for using them to the above address. The OHRC will be developing a bank of instructional material and will make them available to other interested teachers.

Name: _________________________________________________________________

Mailing Address: _________________________________________________________

City: _______________________________   Postal Code: ________________

Telephone: __________________________  Fax: ____________________________

Email: ______________________________________

Thank you for your assistance.

Keep in touch

Human rights legislation continues to evolve, and it is a challenge to keep track of the changes. We would like to let you know when there are changes or developments that would significantly affect the contents of this guide. To ensure that your name is on our mailing list, please send in a copy of the attached information form. To get on our school contact list, just send an email to with the subject title “OHRC school mailing list” and include the following information:

Name: ________________________________________________________________

Department: ____________________________________________________________

School: ________________________________________________________________

Address: _______________________________________________________________

Town/city: ______________________________________________________________

Province: _________________________   Postal code: __________________________

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