When a new issue arises, we often hear about it first in the media. And the media is often the best venue for commenting on an issue to a wide audience. The OHRC continued to use media interviews, releases and advisories, and letters to the editor to respond to issues, correct inaccuracies and educate new audiences about human rights.
Examples of letters to the editor from Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall included:
“Shock and sadness over ‘No Natives’ sign”
In response to an article condemning the placement of a “No Natives” sign on a restaurant door in Lakefield, we talked about how this served as a tragic reminder that what happened in the past continues to happen today – Aboriginal people across Ontario continue to live with discrimination and hate. We also praised the quick response of police, Aboriginal leaders and the community of Lakefield, and urged all Ontarians to follow the lead of the Lakefield community, and to make a new history of reconciliation and inclusion.
“Coach who protested racial slur suspended until April”
We wrote in support of Greg Walsh, coach of a Peterborough house league hockey team, who defended his player’s right not to be the subject of racial slurs and led his team off the ice in protest. We felt his action was admirable, and strongly stated we did not support his being suspended for doing this. We added that all of us, on and off the ice, should stand up and say no to racist conduct.
After a groundswell of support for Mr. Walsh, the Ontario Minor Hockey Association cancelled the suspension.
“Good information comes at a price”
In a letter to the Globe and Mail, we shared our concerns about deleting the census long form. We said this information was a vital starting point for organizations working to eliminate barriers for their workers and their customers. It is hard to solve problems or run a successful business or make a good policy without all of the information – yet that is exactly what was proposed (and ultimately enacted) with these changes.
We also sent a detailed letter to Industry Minister Tony Clement. We wrote about the potential human rights implications of deleting the long form, the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants and the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey about people with physical and mental disabilities.