For immediate publication
Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton of the Ontario Human Rights Commission today praised the government’s consultations on the issue of mandatory retirement.
"The Ministry’s initiative is a welcome step in the right direction. Older workers should be judged on their ability to perform a job, and not have to leave their work just because they reach a certain age," stated Chief Commissioner Keith Norton.
During the Commission’s consultations on age discrimination in 2000, many participants singled out mandatory retirement as a key area of concern because of the profound implications that it can have on their sense of worth, their dignity and their economic security. The Commission’s submission to the Ministry of Labour outlines human rights concerns that mandatory retirement:
- is a form of age discrimination because it involves making an employment decision solely on the basis of age, and not the person’s ability to do the job
- undermines older Ontarians’ independence, participation, and ability to make choices, which is contrary to the values of the Code; and
- can have serious financial impacts on certain groups, such as women, recent immigrants, racial minorities and persons with disabilities.
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, in the area of employment, the legal definition of "age" is limited to people between the ages of 18 and 65. This means that the Commission cannot receive a complaint of age discrimination in employment from someone who is 65 or older.
Mandatory retirement has long perpetuated negative assumptions and stereotypical attitudes about the ability of older workers, and often resulted in discriminatory treatment in the workplace. The submission, therefore, encourages the Ministry to consider amending the Code to remove the upper limit of age 65, so that older workers will have the same human rights protections in the area of employment as others currently do, and be entitled to plan when they want to retire rather than having that decision made for them.
"By eliminating this discriminatory practice, the government will send a clear message that the work and contributions of older Ontarians are valued and appreciated," commented Mr. Norton, adding that, "Older workers have the right to be treated as individuals, assessed on the basis of actual skills and abilities and given the same opportunities and benefits as everyone else."
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