For immediate publication
Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton today released the Ontario Human Rights Commission's year-end results for the fiscal year 2000-2001.
In speaking about the Commission's major accomplishments for the year, Mr. Norton stated that, "Five years ago, when I began my first term as Chief Commissioner, I identified a current caseload as a top priority. I am pleased to report that we have accomplished this important goal."
Having a current caseload means that the average and median ages of active cases at the Commission are less than 12 months old (10.4 months and 7 months respectively). For a fifth straight year, the Commission has also resolved more cases (1,941) than it opened (1,775). This means that the Commission is now in a position where it is resolving roughly the same number of complaints that is in its inventory. As at March 31, 2001, the Commission's inventory of active cases was 1,781, down from 1,952 last year and considerably lower than the caseload of almost 3,000 just five years ago.
Chief Commissioner Norton also highlighted the Commission's work in the area of disability issues and age discrimination, which include:
- a new Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate that incorporates important case law developments as well as a recognition that social attitudes often create as many barriers for persons with disabilities as their physical limitations;
- a Discussion Paper on Accessible Transit Services in Ontario, which reveals several serious gaps in access to conventional transit systems and major discrepancies in the level of paratransit services across the province;
- a revised Policy on Drug and Alcohol Testing that sets out the human rights implications of drug and alcohol testing and recent rulings from the Ontario Court of Appeal on related issues; and,
- release of a Discussion Paper on Age Discrimination and launch of province-wide consultations on human rights issues facing older persons.
The Commission also introduced an Aboriginal human rights initiative, the first phase of which has been completed and identifies main sources of discriminatory treatment and other major barriers faced by off reserve Aboriginals.
The year-end results report also reveals that the Commission has again set new records in its efforts to improve public awareness of human rights. In addition to the over 50,000 callers who spoke with human rights inquiry staff last year, Commissioners and Commission staff participated in 103 public education events involving some 9,300 individuals.
The year-end results also indicate the Commission's work with a number of partners on key human rights projects including:
- the Infant Feeding Action Coalition (INFACT) Canada and Toronto Public Health to launch a province-wide campaign featuring a transit ad and platform poster to promote the rights of women to nurse their children in public;
- CCH Canadian to produce Human Rights Policy in Ontario, a compendium of the Commission's policy papers and guidelines;
- the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to develop a video and study guide that addresses the topic of racism; and
- the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) to develop a plain language guide to the Commission's complaint process in six South Asian languages: Urdu, Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi and Gujarati.
In his remarks, Mr. Norton also stated that the Commission intends to be more aggressive in dealing with barriers faced by persons with disabilities, and that he would not hesitate to use Commission-initiated complaints as a means of ensuring that the rights of these individuals are protected and respected.
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