For immediate publication
Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton today released his 2004-2005 Annual Report marking the near completion of his final term as head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
In speaking about the Commission’s major accomplishments this past year, Mr. Norton stated that, "I am pleased the Commission has been able to bring public attention to a number of very important human rights issues". Key achievements included:
- Holding a Policy Dialogue and publishing articles in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies in support of the development of the Commission’s recently released Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination
- Releasing Guidelines on Accessible Education following its 2003 consultation report, The Opportunity to Succeed: Achieving Barrier-free Education for Students with Disabilities
- Releasing a report on Dining Out Accessibly and negotiating commitments for removing barriers faced by customers with disabilities at major restaurant chains
- Preparing a discussion paper on discrimination because of family status
The Commission also: referred 150 complaints to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and successfully litigated or settled a number of important cases before the Tribunal and the courts; intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada in support of the Federal Government’s same sex marriage legislation; launched a province-wide ad campaign calling for leadership and action on the one year anniversary of its report on racial profiling; spoke out on the discriminatory effect of school discipline legislation and policies; made submissions on several Government initiatives including review of the police complaints mechanism, legislation to prohibit mandatory retirement, proposed regulation of the private security industry, and the proposed Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act; and, recently began partnering with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO calling for a Canadian coalition of municipalities against racism.
“While I am convinced the Commission is a relevant and indispensable force in advancing human rights in this province, I am concerned by the lack of Government response to our repeated requests for procedural amendments to the Human Rights Code or additional resources to deal with the growing number of new complaints filed each year.” stated Norton.
During the 2004-2005 fiscal period, 2,399 new cases were filed at the Commission, 17% higher than the previous five year average; while the Commission closed 2,215 cases, 9% higher than the previous five year average. The active caseload on March 31, 2005 stood at 2,733 cases, 27% higher than the previous five year average. It now stands at just over 3,000 complaints and could reach above 3,300 cases by next March, while new complaints filed could reach 2,900. As a result, the average age of the Commission’s active caseload has begun to creep up and now stands at 11.6 months.
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Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management
Senior Policy Analyst
Policy Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch (PEMO)
Ontario Human Rights Commission