Employers, unions, educational facilities, service providers and other organizations covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) are responsible for ensuring that their environments are free from racial discrimination and harassment. This means not just responding when issues of discrimination or harassment arise, but also taking proactive measures to monitor for and prevent their occurrence.
In addition to acts of discrimination and harassment by individuals, organizations have an obligation to be aware of whether their practices, policies and programs are having an adverse impact or are resulting in systemic discrimination for racialized persons or groups. In some cases, this may include collecting and analyzing data regarding race and related grounds.
It is not acceptable from a human rights perspective to choose to remain unaware of the potential existence of discrimination or harassment, to ignore or to fail to act to address human rights matters, whether or not a complaint has been raised. An organization can violate the Code by directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally engaging in discrimination or harassment. This includes condoning or authorizing discriminatory or harassing behaviours by failing to appropriately address them.
Liability under the Code can result in serious repercussions. In addition to monetary damages, an organization found responsible for discrimination and harassment can be required to change practices that have resulted in discrimination, to engage in monitoring, to implement comprehensive anti-discriminatory and harassment policies and to engage in widespread training of staff and management.
To fulfill the duty to foster environments that are respectful of human rights, the Commission recommends a solid organizational anti-racism program consisting of the following four elements:
- a comprehensive anti-racism vision statement and policy: such a policy and vision statement sends a clear message about an organization’s commitment to equity and diversity. It also sets out what actions are prohibited and provides a procedure for dealing with issues that may arise.
- proactive, ongoing monitoring: monitoring allows an organization to be aware of potential problems and be in a position to address them quickly and effectively.
- implementation strategies: measures such as mandatory training of all staff, organizational change initiatives, special programs and sharing information about the organization’s anti-racism vision statement and policy with staff and management are required in order to successfully implement an organization’s anti-racism goals.
- evaluation: ongoing evaluation of an organization’s anti-racism program is important to ensure its effectiveness.
For further information or copies of the Commission’s Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination, please visit our Web site at www.ohrc.on.ca or call 1-800-387-9080 (toll-free), (416) 326-9511 (in Toronto), 1-800-308-5561 (TTY toll-free), (416) 326-0603 (TTY Local).