a. Community perspectives at the governance and operational level
b. Expanding the OHRC’s reach
c. Community Advisory Group
d. Relationships with Indigenous peoples
e. Hearing directly from youth
f. Providing practical guidance to large institutions and other duty holders
g. Ontario’s human right system
h. Cooperation with other statutory human rights institutions
i. Inter-governmental organizations
In 2015-2016, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) undertook a strategic planning process that involved extensive conversations with nearly 300 people representing over 80 organizations across Ontario. By far, the strongest theme that emerged was the need to implement a strategic, meaningful, consistent, accessible and sustainable approach to stakeholder engagement.
In this report, we unveil our new Community Engagement Strategy, provide an update on our inaugural Community Advisory Group Summit which took place in Toronto in November 2017, and make specific commitments to build on this work going forward.
In 1961, the government established Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) as an arm’s-length agency with a mandate to prevent discrimination, and to promote and advance human rights in Ontario. The OHRC is one pillar of Ontario’s human rights system, alongside the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC).
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), the OHRC has a broad statutory mandate to promote, protect and advance respect for human rights, and to identify and promote the elimination of discriminatory practices. The OHRC works in many ways to fulfill this mandate, including through public engagement, education and training, policy development, public inquiries, and litigation.
Ontario’s human rights system – and the OHRC’s particular role within it – is unique. Fundamentally, the OHRC is tasked with challenging persistent inequality in society. Our mandate places a particular emphasis on addressing systemic discrimination, which refers to patterns of behaviour, policies and/or practices that are part of the social or administrative structure of an organization, and that create or perpetuate a position of relative disadvantage for persons protected by the Code.
In many ways, Ontario’s statutory model recognizes the complexity of the real, intersecting dynamics and cross-cutting systems that drive and sustain systemic discrimination. It recognizes that multi-dimensional strategies, beyond litigating individual cases, are necessary to unseat entrenched systems and behaviours that perpetuate discrimination. The OHRC’s mandate empowers us to pursue truly systemic solutions in the public interest.
In light of our mandate and ability to straddle the community and government, the OHRC is uniquely positioned to play an important role in bringing communities together to safeguard human rights and amplify voices for change.
The OHRC’s mission is to promote and enforce human rights, to engage in relationships that embody the principles of dignity and respect, and to create a culture of human rights compliance and accountability. We accomplish our mission by exposing, challenging and ending entrenched and widespread structures and systems of discrimination through education, policy development, public inquiries and litigation.
Shifting systemic discrimination requires proactive planning and sustained and focused effort. To that end, in December 2016, the OHRC launched an ambitious Strategic Plan, which provides a framework for action over five years (2017 – 2022).
The OHRC’s Strategic Plan, Putting people and their rights at the centre, articulates both substantive focus areas and foundational strengths, which together provide a framework for action. It is geared toward achieving results and creating an environment that encourages and supports human rights accountability.
In putting forward a new set of strategic focus areas – Reconciliation, Criminal Justice, Poverty, and Education – the OHRC has, over the last year, been able to capitalize on the opportunity to address critical human rights issues, particularly those that are affecting the most marginalized and vulnerable members of diverse communities in Ontario.
In addition to our focus areas, the Strategic Plan highlights the foundational strengths required for our work at an operational level. In particular, we committed to bringing regular community engagement more closely into our work, to make sure that we understand and reflect the lived experience of the diverse people of Ontario in everything we do.
The focus on “our relationships” recognizes that the OHRC’s overall effectiveness depends on relationships with a broad range of individuals, groups, organizations and institutions, including government, NGOs, community groups, Indigenous peoples, human rights duty holders, the HRLSC, and other statutory human rights institutions.
To that end, we committed to:
- Reach out and listen to people who are often marginalized and who are most affected by systemic discrimination
- Implement a strategic, meaningful and sustainable approach to community engagement
- Leverage our relationships, particularly with government, purposefully and strategically to effect systemic change
- Continue to engage and share information regularly with the HRLSC and HRTO to ensure the efficiency of the human rights system
- Create opportunities for increased formal and informal collaboration with the HRLSC
- Strategically engage with and support international and regional human rights procedures.
The OHRC’s status as an independent agency of government requires a thoughtful approach to community engagement that effectively combines one-off consultation and full-scale coordination or representation.
The OHRC’s legitimacy and authority comes from our independence – from government, from the other pillars of the human rights system, and from community and advocacy groups. It is paramount that we maintain our independence and avoid any perception of bias or conflict of interest.
At the same time, concerns around independence cannot impede the free flow of information and ideas between the OHRC and stakeholders. Without this, the OHRC risks undermining its relevance, legitimacy and, ultimately, its effectiveness. In this context, a transparent and consistent approach to community engagement is preferable to ad hoc engagement.
The shift to a direct-access system for human rights adjudication in Ontario a decade ago has had implications for community engagement as well. Since 2008, the OHRC has had a declining budget, no permanent regional presence outside of Toronto, no formal investigative powers, much less interaction with complainants, and less access to current up-to-date information on complaint trends. As well, we have faced persistent public confusion around the mandate of the three pillars (OHRC, HRLSC, HRTO).
Despite these challenges, since the OHRC no longer handles individual applications to the HRTO, we have been able to effectively work with community and advocacy groups to push for robust human rights protections and develop cutting-edge human rights policies. We have also been able to prioritize engagement with communities whose experiences of systemic discrimination are not necessarily amenable to resolution through a direct-access human rights system – for example, migrant workers, prisoners, and people affected by systemic discrimination in policing.
At a more practical level, we are keenly aware that many community and advocacy groups are under-resourced and have limited capacity to engage with consultation processes. In this context, the OHRC must bid for attention given other government consultation processes (examples include Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate and other provincial ministries and agencies, other statutory human rights institutions, and municipal/federal governments).
Finally, it is worth noting that, in the past, the breadth of the OHRC’s mandate – covering 17 grounds of discrimination in five social areas – made it difficult to identify a short list of key stakeholders (outside of a specific project or initiative) without inadvertently alienating particular groups. Our new Strategic Plan, however, provides a clear and transparent rationale for proactively engaging with stakeholders whose work intersects with our focus areas of reconciliation, the criminal justice system, poverty and education.
The Community Engagement Strategy outlined in this section pulls together the many concrete steps the OHRC is taking to strengthen our relationships with a broad range of individuals, groups, organizations and institutions.
Our Strategy focuses on the OHRC’s relationships with organizations and people who work outside of government or are arms-length to it. As a creature of statute, the OHRC’s relationship with government is prescribed in the Code, and includes the requirement to submit a report to the Speaker of the Assembly on or before June 30th each year. The OHRC’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of the Attorney General outlines our operational accountabilities.
Under the Code, the OHRC is composed of persons appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council (Commissioners), who have knowledge, experience or training in human rights law and issues, and who broadly reflect the diversity of Ontario’s population.
OHRC Commissioners are responsible for helping the Chief Commissioner to provide strategic leadership and direction, including setting the OHRC’s mission, vision, goals, objectives and strategic direction. For example, Commissioners develop and approve the OHRC’s Strategic Plan, Annual Report and Business Plan, and evaluate the OHRC’s performance and impact. Commissioners also make recommendations, and review and approve major initiatives, including litigation, public inquiries and human rights policies.
Commissioners represent diverse communities and regions across the province. In addition to their governance role outlined in the Code, they strengthen the OHRC’s understanding of and relationships with the community. Commissioners are important liaisons between the OHRC and the community, often connecting the OHRC with credible groups and individuals actively working on relevant issues. Commissioners also play an important role in bringing issues of community concern to the attention of the OHRC, and providing strategic advice on how to address them.
As a full-time appointee, the Chief Commissioner engages with community members on a near-daily basis. This includes:
- Meeting and corresponding with leaders of community and advocacy organizations, human rights duty holders, academics, etc.
- Engaging with Indigenous communities, as well as the leadership of organizations that represent Indigenous peoples at the provincial level
- Attending and speaking at community events
- Engaging with the public through the media, including social media.
OHRC staff are broadly reflect the community and also engage with community members regularly. This includes:
- Meeting and consulting with community and advocacy groups and people with lived experience and expertise to inform our ongoing work (for example, through meetings with individuals, town halls, round-tables, and online surveys)
- Providing training to community groups and respondents
- Organizing at least two “Taking it Local” training days every year (discussed below)
- Attending community events on behalf of the OHRC
- Responding to formal correspondence, and telephone and website inquiries
- Engaging with the public on social media.
While our offices are in Toronto, the OHRC must engage with people outside the Greater Toronto Area to maintain its relevance as an agency with a provincial mandate.
With this in mind, the OHRC proactively creates opportunities to hear directly from people across the province. We organize regular regional and municipal tours that establish a presence throughout the province. We provide diverse forums to discuss critical and emerging issues and environmental factors specific to the municipality or region we are visiting (e.g. town halls, listening circles, focus groups, key informant interviews, etc.). We capitalize on opportunities to explain Ontario’s human rights system, and cultivate a community of support and awareness for the OHRC and its work. We also explore future opportunities for the OHRC to reach out and listen to people, especially people who are marginalized and most affected by systemic discrimination.
The OHRC continues to deepen our engagement on these tours by creating protocols to make sure that people taking part in the visit are briefed on local human rights issues, meet relevant community leaders (mayors, police chiefs, etc.), meet community groups and service providers (ideally at their location or place of operation), and visit and tour corrections and health institutions (including meeting with staff, management and clients/prisoners).
On visits, the OHRC engages with the urban Indigenous community through circles organized by the local Friendship Centre or equivalent, and meets with Chiefs and Band Councils of First Nations. We try to travel to nearby First Nations if possible.
We advise local media of the availability of OHRC Commissioners/staff for interviews, and follow up substantively with organizations or groups to facilitate ongoing and future collaboration.
The OHRC also organizes at least two full-day human rights training events called “Taking it Local” in partnership with municipalities or key local organizations such as universities, colleges or social planning agencies. These training days, which are free to the public, provide the latest human rights knowledge on discrimination based on race, disability, sex, creed, etc., as well as the legal duty to accommodate. Taking it Local usually attracts hundreds of individuals involved either professionally or personally in human rights work or public service.
Finally, the OHRC has a robust social media presence, with active accounts on Twitter (12,500+ followers), Facebook (6,500+ “likes”) and Instagram (580+ followers). We reach millions of community members annually, engage with active users and thought leaders on a daily basis, and take part in real-time online conversations during OHRC live-broadcasts.
Under section 31.5 of the Code, the Chief Commissioner may establish advisory groups to advise the OHRC about eliminating discriminatory practices that infringe rights under the Code.
The OHRC created a Community Advisory Group (CAG) in 2017. Its members have deep expertise across the four focus areas outlined in our current Strategic Plan. The OHRC’s relationship with the CAG is set out in the Terms of Reference, which are included in Appendix A.
The overarching goal in bringing together a CAG is to get genuine feedback on the OHRC and its work, and create durable relationships that can be leveraged on both an ad hoc and structured basis throughout the year.
More concretely, the purpose of the CAG is to:
- Create a sustainable, transparent and accessible approach to community engagement
- Provide a forum for the OHRC to enrich its understanding of environmental factors and critical and emerging issues relevant to its work
- Provide a forum to get feedback, where appropriate, from community groups on the OHRC’s proposed policy development, public education, monitoring, outreach, legal services, inquiries, communications and issues management activities
- Provide a forum for community groups to leverage the OHRC’s support where appropriate
- Build further trust and cultivate a community of support and awareness around the OHRC and its work
- Facilitate further opportunities for the OHRC to reach out and listen to people, especially people who are members of or who represent the groups most affected by systemic discrimination.
We anticipate bringing together CAG members on an annual basis through a summit that allows members to network, collaborate, engage with Commissioners and OHRC staff, and explore other opportunities for collaboration between summits, including through social media. The summit will be accessible to all attendees.
The Chief Commissioner identified potential CAG members through consultation with OHRC Commissioners and staff. The Chief Commissioner invited potential CAG members to submit a “statement of interest.” Potential members were asked to identify elements that would make their participation meaningful. We heard that participation must be impactful, which requires clearly defined expectations, transparent report-back mechanisms, the opportunity to provide relevant insights, and serious consideration of feedback and recommendations received. The OHRC must establish culturally-appropriate and respectful processes that allow for equitable participation. Collaboration and support should be mutually beneficial (for example, by building the capacity of CAG members and empowering them to bring human rights learning back to their organizations and communities).
The Chief Commissioner selected CAG members based on the relevance of their professional and/or personal experiences, stated reasons for seeking to serve as a CAG member; and willingness and ability to take part in the summit and provide ongoing feedback over a one-year term (with the possibility of renewal).
The underlying goal was to include a diverse group of interested individuals. CAG members (approximately 50) reflect a wide cross-section of Ontario communities, including people with:
- Lived experience across Code grounds
- Deep connections to relevant communities
- Diverse geographic representation
- Academic or policy expertise
- Diverse identities, including First Nations, Métis, and/or Inuit peoples.
The CAG also includes representation from the HRLSC and Canadian Human Rights Commission, which offers us an opportunity to better communicate and coordinate to address issues raised by CAG members.
The OHRC is committed to making additional efforts to build sustainable and trusting relationships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities in urban and rural areas throughout Ontario. Initiatives related to this commitment are ongoing and have included meetings with Chiefs and Band Councils, and leaders of other organizations representing Indigenous peoples. We have made several visits to First Nations communities, and continue to explore possible collaboration with key political and community groups.
In July 2017, the OHRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC). This MOU commits both organizations to work together to build the capacity and human rights knowledge of OFIFC and Friendship Centre staff, share information and data, engage with urban Indigenous people on policy development, and coordinate provincial advocacy in key areas such as health care, child welfare and criminal justice. We are exploring opportunities to develop similar cooperation agreements with other First Nations and Métis organizations, including Chiefs of Ontario and Métis Nation of Ontario.
The OHRC is also grateful to benefit from the teachings of traditional knowledge keeper Nancy Rowe, who is a citizen of the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation. Along with other traditional knowledge keepers, Ms. Rowe keepers has been invaluable in helping us meet our commitments towards reconciliation as set out in our Strategic Plan, including:
- Helping to guide our dialogue with Indigenous peoples by ensuring that all discussions are respectful and in keeping with traditional protocols
- Building the capacity of OHRC Commissioners and staff to understand the ongoing impact of colonialism
- Providing advice as we develop collaborations with Indigenous communities and groups.
We are also extremely fortunate to benefit from Commissioners who hold relevant knowledge about First Nations and Métis constitutional orders and world views, and treaty relationships.
All of the OHRC’s current focus areas have a particular impact on youth, and we know that youth engagement must be structured effectively to obtain genuine feedback. We are pleased that the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth has invited the OHRC to meet and consult with youth affiliated with their office that identify as Indigenous, Black, or as having a disability. We have also been invited by the OFIFC to attend their Indigenous Youth Council meetings on a regular basis.
The OHRC is committed to providing education and outreach to help duty holders understand and act on their human rights and responsibilities. We are committed to meeting with duty holders, including employers, to understand their needs.
We have an ongoing collaboration with the Human Rights Professionals Association (HRPA) to create human rights education opportunities for its members. For example, the OHRC often organizes webinars on human rights themes in partnership with the HRPA. Also, the OHRC takes part annually at the HRPA annual conference. We provide an information table and speakers for human rights presentations.
The OHRC has recently concluded several partnerships with large institutions that saw us provide strategic support for large-scale, multi-year human rights organizational change projects. Our most recent partnership was with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. We also regularly provide capacity-building support to enhance organizational change projects within large institutions without necessarily entering into a formal partnership. Recent examples include providing advice on change initiatives initiated by the Thunder Bay Police Service and the Ottawa Police Service.
The leaders of the three pillars of Ontario’s human rights system, the OHRC, HRLSC and HRTO, meet on a regular basis. There are also two part-time OHRC Commissioners who are cross-appointed to the HRLSC’s Board of Directors.
The OHRC and HRLSC recently agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding to emphasize our ongoing commitment to work with each other to achieve the vision set out in the Code.
As is outlined in the Code, we receive all applications filed at the HRTO and can receive intake and other data from the HRLSC upon request. We are actively exploring ways to make data sharing more meaningful and user-friendly across the three pillars.
The OHRC is a member of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA), which meets monthly by teleconference, and bi-annually in person. The mandate of CASHRA is to exchange information, best practices, research and public education materials, and coordinate communication on issues of common concern.
The OHRC meets regularly with delegations from other national human rights institutions (most recently, South Africa, Kenya and Korea) to discuss areas of shared concern and successful strategies to promote equality.
The OHRC engages regularly with inter-governmental organizations that monitor human rights compliance. We make submissions to treaty-monitoring bodies and welcome opportunities to engage with UN Special Rapporteurs and Expert Working Groups visiting Canada.
In 2017, the OHRC created a Community Advisory Group (CAG) with members that who deep expertise across our four focus areas. Appendix B includes biographies for 2017-2018 CAG members.
The OHRC formally launched the CAG during a two-day summit on November 8 – 9, 2017. In addition to CAG members, OHRC Commissioners and senior managers attended the summit. Some staff attended the full summit, while others attended relevant portions or acted as note-takers.
CAG members were welcomed by the Attorney General, the Honorable Yasir Naqvi, and then-Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Ali Arlani. OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane opened the summit by sharing her hope that the two days would be, not so much a consultation, but part of a continuing conversation. She talked about how the summits goal was to bring the OHRC and the CAG members together to establish a framework to share information, identify and discuss human rights issues, and work together to advance human rights in Ontario.
The summit agenda was designed to solicit meaningful participation and engagement by using presentations and small and large group discussions (see Appendix C for the full agenda). Sonja Nerad and Fay Faraday, who helped the OHRC develop its Strategic Plan, facilitated the sessions. A graphic recording artist from ThinkLink Graphics captured the conversations, and we shared the associated visuals widely on social media.
The summit provided opportunities for in-person and online networking, a forum to discuss “urgent actions” for other CAG members to take, and for online conversations through social media (using the hashtag #OHRCommunity).
The first exercise provided an opportunity for CAG members to put forward their hopes for the summit. Overall, participants agreed that they wanted to clarify the role of CAG members, understand how to fulfill their role between meetings, define mutual expectations of CAG members and the OHRC, and identify how CAG’s contributions would be used moving forward.
Over the two days, CAG members engaged in small group discussions organized around the OHRC’s four strategic focus areas. CAG members were asked to identify key issues and opportunities for action in each focus area, and provide recommendations for the OHRC to draw on to advance its operational commitments. Some of the key points from the rich discussions are described here.
CAG members reminded the OHRC that the process of reconciliation would be lengthy. Members noted that it will take more than seven generations to recover the language, culture and connection to the land that has been lost due to ongoing colonization. Also, in the broader context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, CAG members talked about the importance of representation and the need to make sure that the full diversity of Indigenous voices are included in planning and addressing community concerns.
At the same time, CAG members identified critical issues that First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities are currently dealing with, such as the over-apprehension of Indigenous children by child welfare agencies, human trafficking, and discrimination in housing (where the Code ground of “ancestry” often intersects with the ground of “receipt of social assistance”).
CAG members identified opportunities for the OHRC to support these issues, and continue to build and deepen trusting relationships with Indigenous peoples. First, members noted the important role that the OHRC can play by providing advice and feedback on the provincial government’s proposed legislation and policies as they relate to Indigenous peoples. To do so, the OHRC must hold meetings with Indigenous communities on and off reserve and engage elders and knowledge keepers in the dialogue.
Second, there is a key opportunity for the OHRC to advance an alternative understanding of human rights and conflict resolution based on Indigenous world views and collective rights. Indeed, CAG members noted that given the long-standing and entrenched nature of discrimination against Indigenous peoples, one important step in trust-building, is for the OHRC to provide a critical analysis of the human rights system itself. Members also noted that the OHRC must make sure that the Code remains relevant in light of the realities of Indigenous peoples across the province, again by engaging regularly with Indigenous communities.
Finally, CAG members spoke positively about the existing partnership between the HRLSC and the OFIFC, which provides Indigenous peoples with culturally appropriate services to access and navigate Ontario’s human rights system. Members noted that the OHRC should provide training on the human rights system on reserves and in northern Ontario. They also noted that a range of approaches are needed to be relevant to different groups of people, including elders and youth, and to ensure that individuals can see themselves and their issues in the process. CAG members noted a particular need for greater awareness and understanding of Indigenous peoples’ rights related to health care, social services and education. To this end, the OHRC should link with local grassroots groups, social services and community councils to provide training and information in a culturally appropriate way.
CAG members identified several problematic practices and issues related to systemic discrimination in the criminal justice system. An overarching theme is the lack of accountability in all areas of the system, from policing to the administration of justice to corrections.
In terms of law enforcement, members were concerned with “stop and question” practices, alleged sexual assault by police officers, and legislation and institutional practices on disclosing criminal and mental health records. In terms of the administration of justice, members expressed particular concern about how sexual assault cases are investigated and adjudicated.
Members identified the over-incarceration of racialized and Indigenous people, and the use of solitary confinement to deal with prisoners with mental health disabilities as key concerns in corrections. CAG members identified the OHRC’s unique ability to obtain and analyze data to show systemic racism as a key opportunity in this area, and noted that the OHRC should also work to improve access to different sources of data for community groups. Members also suggested that the OHRC advocate for enhanced human rights training, competencies and standards across the sector. Members also saw a role for the OHRC in advocating for independent oversight to further transparency and accountability at senior and leadership levels.
Members highlighted that it would be valuable for the OHRC to work with community leaders, groups and service providers to identify and connect with individuals with lived experience. However, they cautioned that individuals with lived experience may be vulnerable and should be supported and protected, and also benefit from their participation in some concrete or tangible way. At the same time, the group highlighted the ethical considerations involved in engaging with at-risk individuals for litigation and inquiries, and suggested that the OHRC place a strong emphasis on collecting data, identifying systemic issues, and countering negative institutional cultures and narratives.
CAG members noted that there are several provincial initiatives currently underway that provide an opportunity for the OHRC to advance poverty issues, and specifically the intersections between poverty and race. These include the Ontario Basic Income Pilot, Income Security Reform Working Group, Anti-Racism Directorate, and introduction of Bill 164 which would amend the Code to include “social condition,” “police records,” “genetic characteristics” and “immigration status” as prohibited grounds of discrimination. Members noted that there is an opportunity for the OHRC to monitor these initiatives, encourage clear and measurable reporting, and comment on proposals or models as they are put forward.
Second, members discussed the role of the OHRC in terms of addressing the deep relationship between poverty, housing and homelessness. With the release of Taking the Pulse: People’s opinions on human rights in Ontario , the OHRC should work on countering the negative public perception of people in receipt of social assistance, and should leverage the new National Housing Strategy to support initiatives that counter persistent social stigma about people who are homeless.
Third, members encouraged the OHRC to provide education to municipalities, which provide a wide range of services to people experiencing homelessness and poverty, but often do so in the absence of a human rights framework.
Finally, members reflected on strategies for advancing a rights-based approach to poverty. They noted the importance of understanding and engaging with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other international instruments as foundational to moving forward with a rights-based approach to poverty. There was broad agreement that a rights-based approach recognizes poverty as an issue of systemic discrimination that plays out in employment, education, health, housing and other social systems and policies which fall under overlapping provincial, federal and territorial responsibility. Members reflected on how these systems are set up to create and perpetuate poverty and do not take into consideration their disproportionate impact on Code-protected groups. Dividing responsibility between federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments often obscures and diffuses responsibility, and the OHRC needs to expose this. The OHRC can work with other human rights groups that are using international mechanisms to advance social and economic rights and provide public education on Canada’s international obligations.
CAG members highlighted the complexity of the education system. They noted that accountability is highly diffused and that there are few measures in place to hold leaders accountable for addressing complaints or proactively advancing change. Members also talked about how the system is difficult to navigate for youth, families and human rights advocates. Members identified issues of disability, poverty, racism, creed and sexuality, and the intersection of these factors as key concerns.
First, members suggested that the OHRC advocate for several systemic changes including a Ministry-wide equity and human rights framework, clear Board directives, equity and human rights competency at the leadership level, training for all employees, and a human rights framework for human resources, hiring practices and teacher evaluations.
Second, members suggested that the OHRC support existing efforts to collect disaggregated data as a means to identify possible systemic discrimination, racism and exclusion across the education system. Outside of Ministry- or Board-wide initiatives, members suggested that the OHRC advocate for schools to undertake regular human rights surveying and reporting.
Third, members suggested that the OHRC encourage the Ministry of Education to create more inclusive models of education and human rights-based funding models, and establish accountability measures at all levels of the system.
Finally, CAG members emphasized the important role that the OHRC plays in fostering social change through education, both inside and outside the formal education system, and suggested that the OHRC educate children, youth and families on human rights foundations and their rights and responsibilities under the Code.
Beyond the four focus areas, the group identified another key theme – the importance of the OHRC advancing an intersectional human rights framework. We heard many times how the four focus areas intersect and interrelate in significant ways. For example, the exclusion experienced by racialized youth in the education system is linked to both poverty and the criminal justice system.
Another key message that was reiterated throughout the summit is that the OHRC can’t and shouldn’t “do it all” or “do it alone,” and that there are several resources in the community that the OHRC can leverage or capitalize on. In fact, the summit itself shows the importance of bringing people with diverse expertise across our focus areas together to share information, identify areas of overlapping concern, develop litigation strategies, and leverage opportunities for collaboration and action.
We also heard about the need to build a new model for collaboration that brings the “end-user” and community members into the process at an earlier moment, and in an ongoing and meaningful way. Several CAG members suggested that part of their role could include engaging with community members to collect feedback and input on key agenda items in advance of future summit meetings.
Feedback from CAG members raised many issues that require further reflection and consideration by the OHRC. Much of their feedback was relevant to and will be considered in the context of ongoing initiatives such as:
- Public inquiries into child welfare and policing
- Submissions and advice to government on reforms related to policing, corrections and race-based data collection
- Litigation related to solitary confinement
- Collaborations with Indigenous peoples and organizations that focus on dialogue, capacity-building and developing human rights approaches built on Indigenous cultures, laws, treaties and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Support for amendments to the Code that would add “social condition” as a protected ground of discrimination
- Calls for the repeal of the Safe Streets Act, which has a disparate impact on homeless people
- Enhanced internal and sector-wide capacity to promote a rights-based approach to poverty
- Policy guidance to support accessible and equitable education.
Overall, CAG members expressed strong support for the OHRC and its work. Through formal and informal feedback mechanisms, members spoke highly of the summit and appreciated the respectful environment that was created. They valued the opportunity to listen, learn and exchange information with both the OHRC and other members. Members described the two-day summit as “inspiring,” “energizing” and “hopeful.” Many participants felt the summit fostered greater solidarity and renewed optimism.
There was strong support for the public-facing aspects to the summit, including the social media activities that took place during the two days and the press release that followed. The OHRC gained 51 new social media followers during the summit and nearly 1,200 interactions on Twitter. By effectively leveraging the #OHRCommunity hashtag and graphic recording, many people were able to follow the conversation remotely.
As this was the OHRC’s inaugural summit, the feedback received (see below) can help the OHRC strengthen the role of the CAG and improve next year’s summit.
While CAG members learned about the OHRC’s focus areas and operational commitments, there was limited time to discuss the Code and the governance structure of the OHRC. CAG members suggested that the OHRC provide opportunities to develop knowledge and understanding of human rights foundations, the human rights system (including the HRLSC and HRTO), and the particular roles of OHRC staff and Commissioners. Participation of all OHRC staff and Commissioners at future summits could maximize the input of CAG members while providing staff and Commissioners with valuable community linkages and first-hand insights.
The agenda for the next summit could be revised to maximize input from Indigenous CAG members. For example, the limited time available for breakout discussions was a barrier to the effective participation by Indigenous CAG members in particular. Future summits should include longer breakout sessions, ideally facilitated by an Indigenous Commissioner or staff member, and make sure that Indigenous perspectives are prioritized in these discussions.
Finally, while Indigenous issues clearly intersect with other OHRC focus areas, it is important to create spaces where Indigenous peoples look at, examine and decide directions about their own issues, without worrying that their issues will be sidelined or appropriated by non-Indigenous voices. Providing training to other CAG members on Indigenous issues, including the critical importance of Indigenous peoples leading conversations that affect their communities, could help strengthen Indigenous engagement at future events and with the OHRC more broadly.
Feedback from CAG members suggests that there is an interest in having a sharper focus at future summits. Establishing summit objectives in advance of the event and in collaboration with CAG members could help to identify clear or actionable projects and provide for more substantive discussion. Also, breakout sessions should be longer and well-facilitated so that all CAG members have the time and support to fully explore and engage in the subject matter. CAG members also recommended that structured exercises be incorporated to discuss and explore actions related to the inter-connections between the different focus areas. Finally, some activities such as “Human Rights Jeopardy,” which was noisy and fast-paced, could be made more accessible to all participants in the future.
Social media could be further capitalized on to galvanize immediate opportunities for action and to provide legitimacy to the CAG members’ participation.
Finally, ensuring that the venue is conducive to a meeting of this nature is essential. This includes securing a space that is large enough for the plenary sessions, with access to appropriate sound, temperature, natural light and catering.
CAG members expressed a strong interest in staying connected in between summits, and provided these suggestions for sustaining meaningful connections:
- The OHRC should provide advance notice through email of major announcements
- The OHRC should regularly convene technical briefings about key OHRC initiatives
- CAG members should be consulted to provide feedback and advice on key issues as they arise. This could be done through group phone calls or by e-mail.
- CAG members expressed an interest in establishing feedback loops with their communities to ensure the legitimacy of feedback provided to the OHRC
- The OHRC should provide mechanisms or platforms (such as social media, website or listservs) that enable CAG members to tap into and amplify each other’s work.
CAG members strongly encouraged the OHRC to make sure that their participation was impactful, including transparent report-back mechanisms, the opportunity to provide relevant insights, and serious consideration of feedback and recommendations received.
With this in mind, the OHRC will:
- Publicly release this report and distribute it to OHRC staff and Commissioners, the HRLSC, and CASHRA members
- Provide up-to-date information on the OHRC’s Community Engagement Strategy on the OHRC website, and profile CAG members on the website and social media
- Reflect CAG feedback in the OHRC’s Business Plan, Annual Report, and other OHRC documents
- Explore the possibility of creating an email listserv, with appropriate guidelines, to facilitate communication between the OHRC and CAG, and to enable CAG members to update one another on emerging issues, upcoming events, collaboration opportunities, urgent actions, etc.
- Provide CAG members with information about how to bring forward ideas for consideration by the OHRC, and create additional opportunities for community members to provide feedback to the OHRC on its programs and initiatives
- Provide CAG members with advance notice of public communications and offer technical briefings
- Provide CAG members with introductory human rights training, including the role, mandate and governance of the OHRC, in advance of the next summit
- Develop the next summit agenda in consultation with CAG members, especially including Indigenous members and members who require accommodation
- Ensure greater inclusion of OHRC staff in the next CAG summit, and promote connections between staff and CAG members
- Continue efforts to expand the geographic reach of the CAG
- Review the Community Engagement Strategy, including the role of the CAG, annually.
Terms of reference for the Community Advisory Group of the Ontario Human Rights Commission
- Part III of the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code) creates the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). Pursuant to section 31.5 of the Code, the Chief Commissioner of the OHRC may establish such advisory groups as he or she considers appropriate to advise the OHRC about the elimination of discriminatory practices that infringe rights under the Code (Advisory Group).
- The Chief Commissioner wishes to create an Advisory Group with experience and/or expertise in the substantive areas of focus outlined in the OHRC’s current Strategic Plan.
- The OHRC is committed to implementing a strategic, meaningful, accessible and sustainable approach to community engagement. The creation of an Advisory Group is part of the OHRC’s broader community engagement strategy.
- The purpose of these Terms of Reference is to:
- Provide guidance regarding the duties, responsibilities and accountability of Advisory Group members selected by the Chief Commissioner pursuant to s. 31.5 of the Code (members); and
- Set out governance procedures to ensure members’ effective and efficient contribution to the Advisory Group and, ultimately, the OHRC.
- Notwithstanding anything set out herein, pursuant to s. 27(6) of the Code, the Chief Commissioner is ultimately accountable for directing the OHRC.
Mandate and role of the Community Advisory Group
- The Advisory Group provides periodic information and advice to the OHRC in their respective area of expertise and experience. The Advisory Groups’ information and advice will be communicated to Commissioners and staff to inform their ongoing work and future decisions.
Selection of Community Advisory Group members
- The Chief Commissioner will identify potential Advisory Group members through consultation with Commissioners, the Senior Management Committee, and/or staff.
- The Chief Commissioner will invite potential Advisory Group members to submit a “statement of interest” if they would like to serve as an Advisory Group member.
- The Chief Commissioner will select members of the Advisory Group based on the following criteria:
- relevance of professional and/or personal experiences to one or more of the identified strategic focus areas;
- stated reasons for seeking to serve as an Advisory Group member; and
- willingness and ability to participate in the Annual Summit and to provide ongoing feedback.
- There is no specific number of members for the Advisory Group and, where possible and appropriate, the group should include the following:
- Persons with lived experience, across Code grounds;
- Persons who have worked in organizations providing services to the community or representing community members in their area of related expertise;
- Persons with diverse geographic representation;
- Persons with academic or policy expertise;
- First Nations, Métis, and/or Inuit people;
- Representation from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC); and
- Representation from the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).
- Apart from representatives from the HRLSC and CHRC, members are selected as individuals and not as representatives of any particular agency or group. Members should draw on their own experiences and expertise when offering information and advice.
- Each Advisory Group member will serve for a one year term. Each member shall be eligible to continue to serve on the Advisory Group past one year, subject to the Chief Commissioner’s approval. The Chief Commissioner has the authority to remove Advisory Group members at his or her discretion. The Chief Commissioner may select new member(s) at any time.
- Commissioners and selected staff will attend the annual Advisory Group summit and other meetings or teleconferences as required, and at the invitation of the Chief Commissioner.
- The Chief Commissioner may invite individuals that are not Advisory Group members to attend Advisory Group meetings as special guests.
- Consistent with its broad statutory mandate, the OHRC will continue to seek advice, partnerships and support on an ongoing basis and at its sole discretion from individuals who may not be members of the Advisory Group.
Annual summit and meetings
- The Advisory Group shall meet in person at least once per year at an“Annual Summit.” The Advisory Group may meet more frequently if the Chief Commissioner believes it is necessary, whether collectively, individually or in smaller groups. The meetings will be accessible to all attendees.
- Meetings can take place in person, by e-mail, or by teleconference.
- Advisory Group members may be asked to prepare materials for discussion in advance of the meeting. Such a request will be made with sufficient time to allow members to prepare adequately for the meeting.
- Reasonable travel-related expenses will be reimbursed for those who would otherwise be unable to attend the in-person Annual Summit. Expenses will be reimbursed in accordance with applicable Government of Ontario directives.
- There is no expectation that the deliberations and discussions of the Advisory Group be kept confidential. At each meeting, the Chief Commissioner will identify any items that must remain confidential.
- OHRC staff will provide support to the Advisory Group, including distributing materials, drafting meeting summaries, organizing meetings, and acting as a resource during and between Advisory Group meetings. OHRC staff will prepare and distribute Advisory Group materials in sufficient time to allow members to prepare adequately for the meeting.
- If operational issues are raised at meetings, OHRC staff attending the meetings will direct these issues to the appropriate staff for resolution.
Biographies of 2017-2018 Community Advisory Group Members
Zanana Akande was the first Black woman to be appointed to Ontario’s Cabinet, when she served as Minister of Community and Social Services in Premier Bob Rae’s government.
After leaving politics, Ms. Akande served as president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Canadian Alliance of Black Educators and the Toronto Child Abuse Centre. She worked with several other community-based endeavours including the United Way of Greater Toronto, the Family Services Association, the Elizabeth Fry Society and Doctors Hospital. She was the recipient of the African Canadian Achievement Award for Education and the Award of Distinction from the Congress of Black Women.
Ms. Akande is quoted as saying “A city as large and culturally diverse as Toronto owes whatever success in racial harmony it enjoys to the constant vigilance of its citizens, its officials, and its organizations.” In her years of public service she has continued to demonstrate the vigilance necessary to promote and encourage Toronto’s attempts towards racial harmony.
President, Urban Alliance on Race Relations
A community organizer and an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board in Rexdale, Nigel is a Board member of the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, Board Chair of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and a member of the Good Jobs For All Coalition. Nigel’s activist work focuses on quality public education, good green jobs, and a more just society for all inside and outside the classroom.
Director of Policy and Communication, Association of Ontario Midwives
Juana Berinstein is the Director of Policy and Communications for the Association of Ontario Midwives (since 2007). Under her leadership, the Association has successfully campaigned for the expansion of midwifery, the development of birth centres and funding for Aboriginal midwifery. She has been involved in policy initiatives, systemic advocacy and community consultation at the municipal, provincial and federal level in the areas of health, workers’ rights and social justice.
Juana has a Master’s degree in Communication and Culture. She was a Board Member (2010-13) at Health Nexus, a leading non-profit organization working on health promotion and equity, and a mentor with Rainbow Health Ontario’s public policy institute, which looked at addressing health barriers for the 2SLGBTQ community (2014). She immigrated to Canada at the age of 7 from Argentina and lives in Toronto with her partner and their two wonderful daughters.
Champ and Associates
Paul Champ is a human rights and employment lawyer based in Ottawa. Paul and his clients have established legal precedents in disability rights, privacy, racial discrimination, First Nations’ health care and child welfare, prisoners’ rights, and corporate accountability for abuses in foreign countries. Paul has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada on several occasions and in 2013 he was honoured by the International Commission of Jurists with the Tarnopolsky Human Rights Award for outstanding contributions to domestic and international human rights.
Director, Public Policy, Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario
Uppala Chandrasekera has over 15 years of work experience in the health sector, ranging from front-line work assisting individuals and families with mental health and addictions issues, to supporting mental health programming province-wide, and implementing the national strategy to address mental health across Canada.
Currently, Uppala is the Director of Public Policy at the Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario, and she also serves on the Board of Directors of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Her writings examine impact of the lived experience of discrimination on the health and well-being of marginalized individuals and communities, and her advocacy efforts are focused on reducing health disparities, promoting human rights and addressing discrimination in the health care and social services systems.
Superintendent, Equity, Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression, Toronto District School Board
Jeewan Chanicka is the Superintendent of Equity, Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression at Toronto District School Board. His work is focused on embedding an anti-oppressive/racist approach through structures that impact student achievement and well-being. As an instructional leader in schools, he has worked to develop culturally responsive social justice inquiry for classrooms and schools. He has also spent much of his career working with students identified as being "at risk" and re-engaging them in schooling. He has consulted with the United Nations University of Peace, and was a Torchbearer for the 2015 PanAm games.
Jeewan is the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee award for his work in Education and Community Service. He is a community organizer and co-founder of the Coalition Against White Supremacy and Islamophobia. Recently, he recieved the Mary Samuels Educational Leadership Award from the Harmony Movement. Jeewan sits at the Anti-Racism Directorate's Provincial Roundtable on Islamophobia.
Executive Director, Downtown Legal Services,University of Toronto Faculty of Law Community Legal Clinic
Lisa Cirillo is the Executive Director of Downtown Legal Services, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law legal clinic. Lisa has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto. She studied law at Queen’s University and received her LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School.
Since her call the Bar in 1998, Lisa has practiced law in a wide variety of social justice organizations including DLS, ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In addition to her legal work, Lisa has extensive experience in public legal education, community outreach, teaching and training. She is a frequent presenter and requested speaker on a wide variety of public interest topics including family law, violence against women, poverty law, access to justice and human rights issues.
Lisa joined the Board of ACCLE (the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education) in 2011 and served as President from 2013 – 2017. She also serves as a member of the National Steering Committee for NAWL (National Association of Women and the Law) and Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Law Advisory Committee.
Executive Director, First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres
National Director of Anti-Racism and Human Rights, Canadian Labour Congress
Mojdeh Cox is an award-winning and provincially recognized anti-racism and anti-oppression public educator and speaker. She has worked with municipalities, not-for-profit organizations, and small- to medium-sized businesses to develop strategies to be more inclusive and address system racism. In her professional life, Mojdeh works in government relations within the labour movement, advocating for better social, political and economic conditions for working people.
Mojdeh’s profound personal experiences with racism, sexism and xenophobia propelled her into what is not only her passion, but also survival as an activist for human rights. Mojdeh lives in Ottawa with her spouse and four children.
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Working For Change
Michael Creek is the Director of Strategic Initiatives with Working for Change (www.Workingforchage.ca); former coordinator of the Toronto Speakers Bureau, Voices from the Street, where he has learned research, public policy and public speaking. Michael is a psychiatric consumer/survivor and a person with a lived experience of homelessness and poverty.
Michael is also a Board Director at the Inner-city Family Health at Saint Michael’s Hospital, and is an Honorary Friend of Nursing with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO).
Michael continues to work with marginalized communities and people, and encourages them to speak out so that their voices can make a difference in shaping policy and planning with governments. Only when we as a society allow people who have been silenced by oppression and circumstance to be heard can we understand how to build a better place for us all.
Director, Policy, Research and International Division, Canadian Human Rights Commission
Natalie Dagenais is the Director of the Policy, Research and International Division at the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). Natalie has spent most of her career working in the human rights field. She started her career with a federally regulated employer, then joined the Public Service where, except for an assignment with the Treasury Board Secretariat in the early 2000s, she has worked mainly for the CHRC, where she has held various other positions, including that of Director of the Investigations Division.
Natalie has a Civil Law Degree (LL.L) and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), both from the University of Ottawa. She has been a member of the Quebec Bar since 1995.
Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity
Jeremy Dias was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and grew up there until moving to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where he attended high school. As a youth, he was motivated by social and political inequality to take action, volunteering with many organizations and charities. In high school, he started and led several clubs including Stop Racism and Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving. He also founded and coordinated Sault Ste. Marie’s first regional LGBTQ youth group.
After coming out in high school, Jeremy faced extreme cases of discrimination by students and school officials. At 17, he began a legal case against his school and school board, and at 21 won Canada’s second largest human rights settlement. Jeremy used the money to found the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity, the International Day of Pink and the Jeremy Dias Scholarship.
Jeremy has been featured on Canada AM, Much Music, CTV News, Global News and CBC News; and has been a keynote speaker at countless conferences and events.
He has completed a degree in Psychology and Political Science at the University of Ottawa, continues to volunteer for several organizations including Minister of the Status of Women’s Gender Based Violence Prevention Advisory Committee and the Ottawa Police Liaison Committee. He is also a columnist for 2B Magazine in Montreal. Jeremy Dias currently serves as Director of the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity (and the International Day of Pink).
Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Debbie Douglas is an active feminist and anti-racism activist. She is the Executive Director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, where she leads a sector of more than 230 agencies concerned with immigrant and refugee integration and social and economic inclusion.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Debbie was active in the leadership of Ontario’s first shelter geared to abused immigrant women; was also an advocate for employment equity and worked to establish anti-discriminatory systems and practices in public institutions with a focus on the intersection of identities. Debbie serves on many boards including the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, Women’s College Hospital, and co-chairs the City of Toronto’s Newcomer Leadership Table. She is the former co-chair of the National Working Group on Immigration and Settlement at the Canadian Council for Refugees.
Among her many awards are the 2004 YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Award, and the 2014 Race Relations award from the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. This year, she was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Inspire Awards.
Imam Yasin Dwyer was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba to parents of Jamaican heritage. Before joining Muslim Chaplaincy at Ryerson University, Yasin was a part of the multi-faith chaplaincy team at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He has lectured extensively on topics such as spirituality and the arts, Black Canadian culture and the history of Muslims in the west. Along with working alongside many non-profit organizations in Canada, Yasin was the first full-time Canadian Muslim chaplain to work with the Correctional Service of Canada, a position he held for 12 years. He is also a board member of the Montreal based Institut Route de la Soie/Silk Road Institute, which is dedicated to expressing Canadian Muslim narratives through the visual, auditory and performing arts.
Executive Director, Ne-Chee Friendship Centre
Patti Fairfield is the Executive Director of the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre in Kenora, Ontario. Patti first started working at the friendship centre as an Employment Counsellor in October 2002. She started serving as Acting Executive Director in January 2013 and became the permanent Executive Director in October 2013, overseeing 20 programs that cover everything from employment and training, education, health, justice and social services.
Through her employment she sits on many committees. She has been a Rotarian since 2014 and sits as a volunteer Board member for both Sunset Area Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service and the Adult Learning Line.
Clinic Director, Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Avvy Go is the Clinic Director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (formerly known as the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.) She received her B.A. in economics and management studies from the University of Waterloo, LL.B. from the University of Toronto, and LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School. Since her call to the Bar in 1991, she has worked exclusively in the legal clinic system, serving the legal needs of low-income individuals and families, the majority of whom are non-English speaking immigrants and refugees. Immigration, human rights, and employment law are some of the main areas of law that she practices in.
Avvy is a bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), and has been serving in that role, on and off, since 2001. She also serves on the LSUC’s Access to Justice Committee, the Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee and the Human Rights Monitoring Group.
Avvy was a part time adjudicator of the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (from 2006 to 2016), and a member of the Health Services Appeal and Review Board (from 2011 to 2016). In March, 2016, Avvy was appointed to the Licence Appeal Tribunal as a part-time adjudicator.
Between 2009 and 2011, Avvy served on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Justice Education Network. Avvy served on the Advisory Council of the Canadian Human Rights Museum between 2011 and 2013. Since 2011, she has been serving as a member of the Community Council of the Law Commission of Ontario.
Avvy has given many lectures and educational seminars in various areas of law. She has also published articles in various publications including law journals, law books, community and mainstream newspapers, dealing with a variety of subject matters, most notably legal and policy issues affecting immigrants and racialized communities. Avvy spends much time doing community organizing and advocacy work.
Avvy has received the following awards: Senate of Canada 150 medal (2017), SOAR Medal (2017), Order of Ontario (2014), Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers’ Lawyer of Distinction Award (2012), City of Toronto’s William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations (2008) and President's Award of the Women's Law Association of Ontario (2002).
Director of Advocacy and Legal Services, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)
Kenneth Hale is a lawyer and the Legal Director of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO). His work there focuses on law reform, training and test cases on behalf of low-income residential tenants. He was the Lawyer-Director of South Etobicoke Community Legal Services for over 20 years before moving to ACTO in 2008. His commitment to human rights arises from helping clients and communities to overcome the impact of poverty and housing insecurity, and seeing the barriers to success faced by members of equality-seeking groups.
Executive Director, Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education
As Executive Director of Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education, Ian helps set the strategic directions and oversee the work of a team of 40 staff. This team designs and delivers innovative human rights education programs across Canada and overseas, which empower learners, particularly children and youth, to become leaders for social change in their communities. Before joining Equitas in 1997, Ian worked with Rights and Democracy and then spent almost two years in Thailand assisting their campaign to establish a National Human Rights Commission. Ian grew up in Toronto and graduated from University of Toronto in 1990 with a Bachelor’s Degree in History.
Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, University of Toronto
As the University of Toronto’s Vice President, Human Resources & Equity, Professor Kelly Hannah-Moffat is responsible for employment and labour relations with 22 unions and three staff associations, salary and benefits negotiations with the Faculty Association, as well as addressing risks associated with collective agreement negotiations, mediations, grievances and work stoppages. She creates and implements policies that reflect the University's commitment to equity and diversity for students, faculty and staff. She is the Crisis Manager for the University, the Co-Chair for the High Risk Committee and is part of the Institutional On-Call Executive system.
Professor Hannah-Moffat is responsible for the Personal Safety, High Risk, Sexual Violence Prevention and Support team and assisted in the development of the new Sexual Violence Policy. She is a Full Professor in Criminology, and her research has made important contributions to criminology, sociology, and legal issues. Her interdisciplinary research on criminal records disclosures, risk, punishment, and marginalized and diverse populations has contributed to the advancement of knowledge in sociology, criminology, law and social justice, and penal history. Her work has had concrete implications for social and criminal justice policy change, institutional/legal reform and institutional risk meeting practices.
Meeting Co-chair, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres – Indigenous Youth Council
Aanii, Wachey, Sago, and Hello. My name is Dakota Heon and I was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, but now reside in North Bay, Ontario. I am an Indigenous student currently enrolled at Nipissing University and am completing a Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare and Development with a Social Services Work Diploma.
Outside of being a student, I also do quite a bit of volunteer work. Some of this work includes sitting on the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres’ Indigenous Youth Council. My current position is the meeting co-chair and my previous position was the Northeast Regional Youth Representative.
Accessibility Specialist, McMaster University - Equity and Inclusion Office
Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan is a racialized, visibly Muslim, Brown, British/Canadian, immigrant/settler, woman and mom. She has over 10 years’ experience designing, leading and implementing educational initiatives on a range of human rights issues such as disability, ableism and accessibility, human rights, anti-oppression and Islamophobia. She is passionate about human rights because every human is human and everyone should be afforded the dignity, respect and opportunity to live without fear of discrimination.
Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, York University
Dr. Carl James is the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora in the Faculty of Education, and cross-appointed to the Graduate Programs in Sociology, Social Work, and Social and Political Thought at York University. In his role as Chair, he gives particular attention to issues of Black and other racialized people using a framework of equity, inclusivity, and social justice; and in the process seeks to foster university-school-community-government partnerships.
A former youth and community worker, James is widely recognized for his work with racialized communities; and nationally and internationally, for his scholarship and research pertaining to equity and access to opportunities in terms of race, class, gender, racialization, immigration and citizenship. On an international level, James has worked with teacher educators, teachers and teacher-candidates at Uppsala University, Sweden (1997 to 2013). In addition to his many community awards, James also holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Uppsala University for his contribution to social equity and anti-racism education; and is an elected Fellow in the Royal Society of Canada.
Senior Manager, Equitable and Inclusive System Culture, Toronto District School Board
Ken Jeffers is the newly appointed Senior Manager for Equitable and Inclusive System Culture at the Toronto District School Board. Ken’s background is as a teacher and child and youth worker and he has been an employee of the TDSB since amalgamation. He began his career within the TDSB as an Equity Program Advisor, designing and delivering programs for staff and youth, playing an advocate role for students experiencing discrimination – helping to draft and implement the TDSB’s Equity and Human Right’s polices as early as 1999. From 2009-2017, Ken worked as Coordinator of the Board’s Gender-Based Violence Prevention Office, implementing a system-wide prevention strategy for almost 600 schools and programs, over 230,000 students and over 30,000 employees across the district.
Dr. Salha Jeizan, EdD.
Chair, MIAG – Centre for Diverse Women and Families
Dr. Salha Jeizan is an educator, community leader and activist who works and volunteers with grassroots organizations, advocating for women and youth. She is committed to raising awareness of issues facing diverse comminutes. Salha is a professor with Sheridan College and Adjunct Faculty at Capella University. She has served on many boards and is the chair of MIAG – Centre for Diverse Women and Families, immediate past president of The Federation of Muslim Women, a committee member on Parent Involvement Committee of the Peel District School Board (PDSB), Muslim Advisory Committee of Peel Regional Police, and founder of Umoja Women’s Association.
Director of Education, Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust
April Julian joined the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and Education Trust (CCLET) in 2009. She became Deputy Director of Education in 2014, and Director in 2016. An Ontario Certified Teacher, April is responsible for developing and delivering CCLET’s various education initiatives in Ontario and beyond. With the help of her colleagues at CCLA/CCLET, April delivers civil liberties programming to nearly 10,000 learners each year – including elementary and high school students, pre-service and in-service teachers, newcomers to Canada, and youth in custody. In her work, April strives to encourage a deeper understanding and respect for the rights and freedoms of everyone in Canada.
Manager, Consent Comes First – Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University
Farrah Khan has spent two decades working diligently to raise awareness about the connection between equity and gender-based violence. She was named co-chair of Ontario’s first permanent provincial roundtable on Violence Against Women and the Federal Strategy Against Gender-based Violence Advisory Council. She conducts training across North America on gender justice, sexual violence, forced marriage and consent. Farrah is co-founder of innovative community projects including Use the Right Words: Media Reporting on Sexual Violence, Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project, and is a regular contributor to major news media outlets. She is the Manager of Consent Comes First, Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University, where she works with community members affected by sexual violence, creates educational programming and aids in shaping campus policy and procedures. Farrah has received many awards, including the Toronto Community Foundation Vital People Award and a Women Who Inspire award from Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
Organizational Development Specialist – Diversity & Inclusion, City of London
Saleha J. Khan is a human rights and social justice activist and educator with more than 15 years of experience in training with law enforcement and the public service sector, working with diverse communities in Ontario, Canada and abroad. Saleha’s areas of expertise include social justice, human rights and responsibilities, hate crimes, and the settlement sector’s challenges and opportunities with the new Canadians. She has worked in the human capital, equity and inclusion field for more than 15 years, She is involved in volunteer efforts in empowering women and members of immigrant and racialized communities, regarding family and partner abuse. Saleha is the co-founder of the Family Honour Project, housed out of London, Ontario, She is also a charter member of the London Chapter for Sorpotimist International. Saleha received the Canadian Council of Muslim Women’s Women who Inspire Award for 2015.
She is currently employed as the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist with the City of London, Ontario. Saleha can be reached via LinkedIn.
National Coordinator, Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty
Anita Khanna works at Family Service Toronto as National Coordinator, Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty in Canada and Director of Social Action and Community Building. Anita is an advocate for social justice and equity whose work is driven by anti-racist, anti-oppressive analysis. She was Executive Director of the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) and City-Wide organizer at Social Planning Toronto. Anita’s work and activist experience spans legal, gender-based violence, migrant justice and youth advocacy issues. Please tag @campaign2000 on twitter and on Facebook.
Health Promoter, Bridges Community Health Centre
Lori Kleinsmith has worked as a Health Promoter at Bridges Community Health Centre since 2009. Lori is a passionate social justice and health equity advocate and has been an active member of the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network for several years. She is the current chair of the Niagara Dental Health Coalition and co-chair of the City of Port Colborne’s Social Determinants of Health Committee of Council. Follow Lori on Twitter at @LoriKleinsmith.
Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law
Roberto Lattanzio is the Executive Director of ARCH Disability Law Centre. He joined ARCH as an articling student in 2003 and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 2004. Robert received his LL.B and B.C.L. law degrees from McGill University in 2003 with distinction, and received his B.A. from Concordia University in 1999 with honours. He has acted as counsel in test case litigation at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and has made law reform submissions to various levels of government, committees and administrative bodies. Robert has presented and written on topics such as equality and human rights law, administrative law, education law, legislative reform, and social science evidence. Robert has a long-standing interest in disability issues and worked extensively with disability communities prior to attending law school.
President, Maytree Foundation
Elizabeth McIsaac is the president of Maytree, an organization committed to exploring solutions to poverty in Canada using a human rights approach. She has a deep history with Maytree; she previously served as the Director of Policy and was the executive director of one of Maytree’s signature ideas: the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC). Elizabeth is also a dedicated champion of the non-profit sector, having most recently established and led a research hub at the Mowat Centre focused on public policy and the sector.
Policy Counsel, Legal Aid Ontario
Fallon Melander is Anishinaabe, a mother, a wife, a travel enthusiast and a member of Wikwemikoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. She completed her B.A. at the University of Western Ontario and her LL.B. at the University of Ottawa. She is Policy Counsel for Legal Aid Ontario leading the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, and is a member of the Indigenous Bar Association.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
Director, Equality Program, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv joined CCLA in 2002 as a legal researcher. Since 2005 she has directed CCLA’s Expression and Equality programs. Noa has been published, made submissions, appearances and presentations, and advocated on such issues as refugee protection, LGBTQ rights, racial profiling, freedom of expression and religion, and the intersectionality of rights, in particular religious freedom and equality. Noa has coordinated many CCLA interventions in a variety of Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and human rights tribunals; appeared before Parliamentary and provincial legislative committees, governmental and public bodies; and provided written submissions. She has also appeared on panels, at conferences, in press interviews, and provided guest workshops and lessons through CCLET’s public education project. In addition, Noa manages CCLA’s law student volunteer programs.
Noa has an LL.B. and LL.M. from the Hebrew University in Israel, and a B.A. (with distinction) from York University. She completed her legal articles at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and was called to the Israeli Bar in 1998. She worked for a few years as an associate at a private law firm in Jerusalem, practicing litigation, labour, commercial and corporate law. Noa has also served as Field Coordinator for a large research project on eating disorders in women, and as Acting Administrative Director of Hebrew University Law Faculty’s Center for Human Rights.
Executive Director, Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation
Nicola Mulima, Executive Director of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), is an Ontario Lawyer who was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1995 and has worked in both the public and private sector for over 20 years. Nicola has served as Executive Director and Staff Lawyer for Legal Aid Ontario community legal clinics and at the Legal Aid Ontario head office. In each of Nicola’s Legal Aid positions she served as the Housing Lead, while also practicing in several other areas of clinic law, including human rights and social assistance. Nicola also served as Legal Counsel with the Region of Peel in the areas of housing and commercial law and as General Counsel with World Vision Canada.
Nicola has been committed to social justice and human rights issues throughout her career, and has served on several boards of directors for agencies addressing issues of poverty and equality.
Project Manager – One Vision One Voice: Changing the Child Welfare System for African Canadian Families
Kike Ojo is the Project Manager for One Vision One Voice: Changing the Child Welfare System for African Canadian Families, a community-led project facilitated by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Kike has worked in the field of child welfare in Ontario for over 10 years, advancing an equity agenda to address services to all marginalized people. Prior to her child welfare career, Kike worked within multiple social service sectors and within communities in the US and Canada, and has presented many keynotes, guest lectures and workshops.
Kike’s work and volunteer efforts earned her the Lincoln M. Alexander Community Award for extraordinary leadership in eliminating racial discrimination in Ontario, and several other awards and recognitions. Over the past two years, Kike has been featured in the Toronto Star, on The Agenda with Steve Paikin (TVO), CBC News, and CBC Radio across Ontario.
Kike’s formal education includes a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in International Justice and Human Rights from McMaster University, a Master of Arts in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Education, University of Toronto. Additionally Kike is a certified Alternative Dispute Resolution mediator.
Executive Director, John Howard Society of Ontario
Paula Osmok is the Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Ontario, a position she has held since 2002. During this time, she established the Centre of Research and Policy, and through its team of professional researchers, policy analysts and evaluators, has engaged in leading-edge research and policy work, making significant contributions to social and criminal justice literature and program development in Ontario. She was elected for four successive terms as a public school trustee in her local community, serving as Chair of the Board and of many committees.
She has presented at many conferences and training sessions on a range of criminal and social justice topics including the importance of human rights in carceral settings. A special focus is required for carceral settings because prisons are environments where human rights can be most easily disregarded.
Paula holds an MSc, in Criminal Justice Studies from the University of Leicester in the UK.
Chair in Indigenous Governance, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University
Pam Palmater is a Mi’kmaw citizen and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation. She’s been a practicing lawyer for 18 years and holds the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. Pam is an activist and was one of the spokespeople and educators for the Idle No More movement. She is a well-known public speaker often called before Parliamentary and United Nations committees as an expert on Indigenous rights.
Jessica Reekie, B.A. LL.B.
Executive Director, Ontario Justice Education Network
Jess Reekie is the Executive Director of the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), a charitable not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that develops innovative educational tools that introduce young people to the justice system, help them understand the law, and build their legal capability (www.ojen.ca).
A graduate of Harvard University and Dalhousie Law School, Jess practiced immigration and refugee law before she began working in the field of public legal education. She joined OJEN in 2008, first as a Program Manager developing public legal education programs and resources for newcomer youth, later becoming Director of Programs where she oversaw all of OJEN’s justice education work with vulnerable and marginalized youth. In 2014, she became OJEN’s Executive Director. Jess also serves as a Board Member for the Public Legal Education Association of Canada (PLEAC).
Coordinating Superintendent, Equity and Community Services, York Region District School Board
In his 33-year career as an educator, Cecil Roach has had the opportunity to have a very profound impact on the lives of young people. He has done this as a classroom teacher, school administrator, and now Coordinating Superintendent.
Born on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat (now sadly devastated by a continuously erupting volcano) and arriving in Canada in his early teens, Cecil completed most of his schooling in Montreal where he graduated from Marymount High School, Vanier College CEGEP, and Concordia and McGill Universities. He maintains that his time as one of the “barrel children” (children whose parents left them behind with a grandparent while they prepared for their reunion in Canada) has given him special insight into the dynamics of immigration and its effect on student achievement and well-being. This experience has also strengthened Mr. Roach’s belief that schools are places where students, regardless of their social identities, can expand dreams on their journey towards full participation in Canadian society.
Cecil taught English for 16 years in Quebec at Chambly County High School and Centennial Regional High School and in Ontario at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute before becoming an administrator in 1995. He is currently serving as Coordinating Superintendent, Equity and Community Services for the York Region District School Board.
Chair, Métis Nation of Ontario Youth Council
Paul Robitaille is a Métis graduate student and community organizer, with a strong passion for youth empowerment and cultural revitalization. Paul’s academic and professional work seeks to promote greater understanding and collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples through creating opportunities for respectful cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge exchange. Paul is excited to join the Community Advisory Group and to collectively work towards building a more inclusive, equitable and barrier-free Ontario for all Ontarians.
Elder, Traditional Teacher
Giidaakunadaad (The Spirit Who Lives in High Places) n’dizhinikaaz (is my name): Nancy Rowe is a Mississauga, Ojibwe of the Anishinaabek Nation located at New Credit First Nation, Ontario. Nancy holds an honors BA in Indigenous Studies and Political Science. She is an educator, consultant and a Traditional Practitioner of Anishinaabek lifeways, views and customary practices, and is currently completing a Master’s degree of Environmental Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo.
She is an avid volunteer who coordinates Akinomaagaye Gaamik, a grassroots initiative to provide educational opportunities for all peoples interested in Indigenous perspectives of life, health, education, history and the environment. “Education is the doorway through which we all can create a common ground and understanding of not only Indigenous Peoples but also, and more importantly, our environment.”
Catherine Soplet joins the OHRC Community Advisory Group with a musician’s insight and results since 2007 on complex issues of education and poverty. Her 2017 collaborations in a new role as Executive Director (Acting) for NabrHUBS INC. intend to gauge impact of parent mentoring on student tutoring. Since joining the Peel Poverty Action Group and Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2010, Catherine’s mantra, “Schools anchor neighbourhoods, attract talent and build prosperity,” has been taken to every level of government
Lawyer, Human Rights Legal Support Centre
Chantal Tie is an advocate, litigator and educator, dedicated to social justice and the defense of human rights. She wrote her LLM thesis on discrimination in Canadian immigration, and the same interest in the rights of immigrants, women and marginalized groups drives her advocacy and litigation work. She was awarded the Law Society Medal from the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2015, in recognition of her social justice work.
She has represented individuals and organizations in rights-based litigation at all court levels, including among others, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), Elizabeth Fry Society, Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) and Amnesty International.
Called to the Bar in 1982, her interest in social justice extends beyond Canada, having worked for the Canadian Bar Association on justice projects in Bangladesh and China. She currently volunteers on collaborative projects with The Equality Effect, including a successful constitutional challenge in Kenya on behalf of 160 girl victims of rape and a challenge to the requirement for corroboration in rape in Malawi.
Chantal was Chair of the Court Challenges Program of Canada, Co-chair of LEAF’s litigation committee and CCR’s Inland Protection Working Group and is now on the Executive of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, co-chairing the litigation committee. For 21 years, she was Executive Director of South Ottawa Community Legal Services and is now counsel at the Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre. She teaches Immigration and Refugee Law at the University of Ottawa.
Director – Policy, Learning and Evaluation, Tamarack Institute
As a lifelong resident of Windsor, I have strong ties to my community and am passionate about creating an equitable, inclusive community. Following studies in political science, law and social work, for the last nine years I have worked as an anti-poverty advocate. I believe that human rights should be the foundation of any poverty reduction strategy. I am currently the Tamarack Institute's Director of Policy, Learning and Evaluation, and prior to that I worked for the Downtown Mission of Windsor and Pathway to Potential. Twitter: @adam_vasey
Duty Counsel, Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto
Jessica Wolfe is Anishinaabe from Brunswick House First Nation, and mother of two children, Meghan and Ruby. A recovering social worker, she graduated from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law in 2006 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2007. Jessica worked for 10 years as Criminal Duty Counsel at Old City Hall Courthouse in Toronto, and specifically in the Gladue Courts representing Indigenous persons in conflict with the settler criminal justice system. She recently accepted the Senior Staff Lawyer position at Aboriginal Legal Services, a legal clinic that provides legal services to low-income Indigenous persons in the areas of human rights and poverty law, and engages in law reform activities, community organizing, public legal organizing, test-case litigation, coroner’s inquests, public inquiries, and interventions at all levels of court including the Supreme Court of Canada.
Ontario Human Rights Commission Community Advisory Group Summit
November 8 and 9, 2017
180 Dundas Street West, 8th Floor, Toronto, ON M7A 2G5
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
8:30 a.m. Registration and breakfast [8th floor boardroom]
9:00 a.m. Opening remarks [8th floor boardroom]
- Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)
- Nancy Rowe, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation
- Hon. Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General of Ontario (video)
- Ari Arlani, Assistant Deputy Attorney General
9:20 a.m. Icebreaker exercise [8th floor Boardroom]
- Facilitators: Sonja Nerad and Fay Faraday
10:20 a.m. Break
10:30 a.m. Identification of critical and emerging issues for each focus area
- Introduction [8th floor Boardroom]
Dianne Carter, Executive Director, OHRC
- Small group discussions [8th and 9th floor boardrooms]
- Reconciliation focus area
- Criminal justice system focus area
- Poverty focus area
- Education focus area
- Large group report-back [8th floor boardroom] Facilitators: Sonja Nerad and Fay Faraday
12:00 noon Lunch [8th floor boardroom]
Wednesday, November 8, 2017 (continued)
1:00 p.m. OHRC public opinion survey [8th floor boardroom]
- Technical briefing
Jeff Poirier, Senior Policy Analyst, OHRC
- Large group discussion
Facilitators: Sonja Nerad and Fay Faraday
2:30 p.m. Group photo [8th floor boardroom]
2:40 p.m. Break [8th floor Boardroom]
- Networking with OHRC Commissioners and Staff
3:15 p.m. Human Rights Jeopardy [8th floor boardroom]
Facilitators: Shaheen Azmi, Director, Policy, Education, Monitoring
and Outreach and Dora Nipp, Human Rights Education and Change Specialist, OHRC
4:25 p.m. Wrap-up [8th floor Boardroom]
Facilitators: Sonja Nerad and Fay Faraday
4:30 p.m. End of program
Thursday, November 9, 2017
8:45 a.m. Breakfast [8th floor boardroom]
9:00 a.m. Warm-up and recap from Day 1 [8th floor boardroom]
- Facilitators: Sonja Nerad and Fay Faraday
9:30 a.m. OHRC operational commitments – 12 months [8th floor boardroom]
Dianne Carter, Executive Director, OHRC
10:30 a.m. Break
Thursday, November 9, 2017 (continued)
10:40 a.m. Community advisory group feedback on specific operational commitments
- Small group discussions [8th and 9th floor boardrooms]
- Reconciliation focus area
Facilitator: Shaheen Azmi, OHRC
- Criminal justice system focus area
Facilitator: Michael Harris, Manager, Legal Services
and Inquiries, OHRC
- Poverty focus area
Facilitator: Jeff Poirier, OHRC
- Education focus area
Facilitator: Cherie Robertson, Senior Policy Analyst, OHRC
- Large group report-back [8th floor boardroom]
Facilitators: Sonja Nerad and Fay Faraday
12:00 noon Lunch [8th floor Boardroom]
1:00 p.m. Exploring collaboration opportunities [8th floor boardroom]
Renu Mandhane, OHRC
- Large group discussion
Facilitators: Sonja Nerad and Fay Faraday
2:00 p.m. Break [8th floor Boardroom]
2:10 p.m. Role of the Community Advisory Group in the OHRC’s
community engagement strategy [8th floor boardroom]
Renu Mandhane, OHRC
- Large group discussion
Facilitators: Sonja Nerad and Fay Faraday
3:30 p.m. Closing remarks [8th floor boardroom]
- Renu Mandhane, OHRC
4:00 p.m. End of program