As part of It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment, the Government of Ontario is hosting its 2015 Summit on Sexual Violence and Harassment in Toronto from November 19 – 20.
Renu Mandhane, the newly appointed Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), is pleased to deliver a keynote address at the Summit. Ms. Mandhane is a long-time advocate for women's human rights. As a criminal lawyer, she represented survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and saw first-hand the devastating consequences for women.
The OHRC has long recognized that sexual harassment is often a precursor to sexual violence. Human rights case law is full of examples where inappropriate sexual behaviour was not dealt with, and escalated to sexual assault and other violence.
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex, and the Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits it in employment, services like education, housing and other “social areas.”
The OHRC has a continued commitment to addressing and preventing sexual harassment. In 2011, it developed its Policy on Preventing Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment (updated in 2013). This policy sets out a person’s right to be free from sexual harassment, and provides clear guidance to organizations on how to fulfil their legal duties under the Code.
If someone believes they have experienced sexual harassment, they can file a human rights claim at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). They can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for free legal advice.
If a claim of sexual harassment is upheld, the HRTO has the power to hold an organization responsible, to order public interest remedies, and to award monetary payments to the person who complained. These can be vital steps for making sure that nobody else in the organization faces the same kind of treatment.
The human rights system is a crucial part of a coordinated approach to a complex problem. The OHRC is committed to being part of the solution, and will continue to use its resources and mandate to stop sexual harassment, and to make sure that it doesn’t escalate.
The OHRC’s Policy on Preventing Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment, as well as other important resources on preventing sexual harassment, are available at: www.ohrc.on.ca.