For immediate publication
Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton of the Ontario Human Rights Commission today praised the government's move to act on providing more flexibility and choice in the area of retirement. This is consistent with the Commission's recommendation made in June 2001 for Ontario workers aged 65 or older.
"The Bill introduced by the government yesterday respecting the age of retirement is significant and a step in the right direction. For some older workers, maintaining or even obtaining employment can have profound implications on their sense of worth, their dignity and their economic security. They 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, adding that, "Although the Bill provides for a transition period until January 1, 2005, it does not prevent any forward-looking employer and bargaining agent from implementing the provisions before that date."
During the Commission's consultations on age discrimination, mandatory retirement was singled out as a key area of concern to older Ontarians. 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.
Amending the Code by removing the upper limit of age 65 will provide older workers with important human rights protections in the area of employment, and the freedom to plan when they want to retire rather than having someone else make that decision for them. "This is not intended to force people to work longer. Rather it is meant to provide flexibility of choice to those who want to continue to work," 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."
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. Eliminating this discriminatory practice sends a clear message that the work and contributions of older Ontarians are valued and appreciated. It also reinforces the Commission's work in the area of age discrimination against older Ontarians, particularly the theme of its public awareness campaign, "Nobody has a shelf life. Stop age discrimination now. It's illegal, and it's just plain wrong."
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Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management