The Ontario Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) is an independent, arm's length agency of the provincial government, accountable to the Legislature through the Attorney General. As Canada’s oldest Commission, it was established in 1961 to administer the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”). The Commission's mandate is to protect, promote and advance human rights in Ontario, and this mandate is central to building stronger, safer communities.
The Code sets out the right of individuals in Ontario to be free from discrimination in employment, housing accommodation, goods, services and facilities, contracts, and membership in vocational associations and trade unions, based on fifteen prohibited grounds. These include: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed (religion), sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), sexual orientation, disability, age (18 and older, except 16 and older in housing, and up to 65 in employment), marital status (including same sex partners), family status, receipt of public assistance (in accommodation only) and record of offences (in employment only).
The Commission has broad functions and powers under the Code and acts independently on behalf of the public interest. The Commission investigates complaints of discrimination, endeavours to settle complaints between parties, and litigates cases at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and higher courts. The Commission also inquires into human rights matters, initiates complaints, and undertakes to prevent discrimination through research, policy development, cooperation, and public education. The Commission’s inquiry and intake, mediation, investigation, policy, and legal services work in an integrated fashion to fulfil all aspects of the Commission’s mandate.