On this 45th anniversary of the Ontario Human Rights Code, I am pleased to present the fourth edition of Human Rights Policy in Ontario, a publication first introduced in 1998. I am also pleased that Carswell, a respected publisher of employment and human rights related material, is our partner in putting together this latest compendium of the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policies and guidelines.
Since the Code was introduced, society’s understanding of human rights has evolved, and protections under it have expanded to reflect these changes. Where the Code once covered six grounds -- race, creed, colour, nationality, ancestry and place of origin, today there are 15 protected grounds including the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of gender, marital and family status, disability, and sexual orientation.
Despite 45 years of work, discrimination still persists, calling for continued efforts to address new and varied human rights issues. In this regard, the Commission’s research and policy function is essential because it educates as well as advances awareness and understanding of existing and emerging human rights issues.
Over the years, the Commission has accordingly developed a considerable collection of policy statements on a wide range of human rights issues, many of which have received national, and even international attention.
The purpose of Commission policies and guidelines is to set out how the Code will be interpreted and applied in dealing with human rights complaints. For this reason, the general public, human rights lawyers, community advocates, and the courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, often refer to them for clarification of rights and responsibilities.
Key features of this particular edition include new policies and guidelines on racism and racial discrimination, family status and accessible education, as well as updated versions of policies on discrimination against older people because of age, pregnancy and breastfeeding and sexual orientation.
In keeping with the Commission’s new vision for “an Ontario in which everyone is valued, treated with dignity and respect, and where human rights are nurtured by us all ”, this compendium will serve as an indispensable tool for ensuring that these ‘written rights’ become ‘lived rights’.
Barbara Hall, B.A, LL.B, Ph.D (hon.)