Ontario Strengthens Human Rights Protection



    McGuinty Government Supporting Diversity And Fighting Intolerance

    TORONTO, June 30 /CNW/ -

    NEWS

    Ontario is leading the way in protecting human rights in Canada by
launching a stronger system to prevent discrimination.
    Starting today, everyone in Ontario has faster access to human rights
adjudicators and legal support if they need it.
    The new system reinforces Ontario's leadership in human rights and
addresses systemic discrimination. Here's how it works:

    
    -  A strengthened Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
(<a href="http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-bg.asp#hrto">http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-bg.a</a>
<a href="http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-bg.asp#hrto">sp#hrto</a>)
       offers direct, early access to additional adjudicators with the
       expertise to fairly resolve discrimination claims.
    -  The new Human Rights Legal Support Centre's
(<a href="http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-bg.asp#hrlso">http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-bg.a</a>
<a href="http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-bg.asp#hrlso">sp#hrlso</a>)
       team of lawyers and paralegals provides free assistance throughout
       Ontario for starting and resolving discrimination claims.
    -  The Ontario Human Rights Commission
(<a href="http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-bg.asp#ohrc">http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-bg.a</a>
<a href="http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-bg.asp#ohrc">sp#ohrc</a>)
       addresses the underlying causes of discrimination with a strengthened
       capacity for public education, policy development, research and
       monitoring.
    

    As previously announced, the province's $31.7 million investment in the
human rights system this year includes $14.1 million in one-time funding to
provide:

    
    -  A strategy to resolve 4,200 open cases at the Commission, of which
       over half are 12 months or older
    -  A new case management system to process claims faster and monitor
       system performance
    -  New, state-of-the-art accessible facilities, including 22 mediation
       and hearing rooms.
    

    QUOTES

    "The McGuinty government is building a stronger Ontario by safeguarding
the human rights of our people so they can live and work without
discrimination," said Attorney General Chris Bentley. "Ontario now has a
better way of achieving the values enshrined in our Human Rights Code."
    "Ontarians will have the opportunity to be heard by applying directly to
the Tribunal, where experienced human rights adjudicators will address
discrimination claims in a fair and expeditious manner," said Michael
Gottheil, Chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
    "We have created a team of lawyers and paralegals to ensure everyone has
access to the legal supports they need in the human rights process," said Raj
Anand, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Legal Support
Centre.
    "We now have a greater ability to help eliminate barriers and prevent
discrimination by focusing on systems and sectors, intervene on difficult
issues when they're needed, but also connect with communities through
education and partnership," said Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner of the
Ontario Human Rights Commission. "That's the best way to advance Ontario's
human rights culture."
    Read more about what people are saying
(<a href="http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-quotes.asp">http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-quot</a>
<a href="http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-quotes.asp">es.asp</a>) about Ontario's new human rights system.

    
    QUICK FACTS

    -  An average of 2,500 discrimination cases are filed every year in
       Ontario.
    -  Under the old system, it could take four to five years for a human
       rights complaint to be resolved. The goal of Ontario's new system is
       to complete hearings within one year of receiving the application.
    -  This is the first major reform of Ontario's human rights system since
       1981.
    

    LEARN MORE
    Learn more about the new human rights system
(http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/ohrc/).
    Find out about the process for filing a discrimination claim
(http://www.hrto.ca/NEW/word/plain_language_guide.doc).
    Download the ministry's brochure
(<a href="http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-brochure-en.pdf">http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-broc</a>
<a href="http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080630-ohrc-brochure-en.pdf">hure-en.pdf</a>) on the new system.
    Read the Ontario Human Rights Code
(http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h19_e.htm)
.

    
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    BACKGROUNDER
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                   ONTARIO LAUNCHES NEW HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM
    

    ONTARIO'S HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM

    A new and strengthened human rights system consisting of the Ontario
Human Rights Commission (http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en), the Human Rights Tribunal
of Ontario (http://www.hrto.ca/NEW/home.asp) and a new Human Rights Legal
Support Centre (http://www.hrlsc.on.ca/) is now working for the people of
Ontario.
    The new system is designed to resolve discrimination claims faster,
provide individuals with legal support and help promote and advance human
rights.

    ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

    With its new and enhanced role, the Ontario Human Rights Commission
(http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en) works to promote, protect and advance human rights
in Ontario. Its main focus is to address broad and systemic issues of
discrimination. Activities include research and monitoring, policy
development, and education and training. The Commission also conducts targeted
inquiries and may initiate applications or intervene in important cases before
the Tribunal. Through outreach, cooperation and partnership the Commission
aims to change systemic attitudes and build an active human rights culture.
The Commission is located at 180 Dundas Street West in Toronto.

    HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL OF ONTARIO

    All claims of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code
(http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h19_e.htm)
are now dealt with through applications filed directly with the Human Rights
Tribunal of Ontario (http://www.hrto.ca/NEW/home.asp). The Tribunal is an
independent, neutral body that resolves applications through mediation or
adjudication. Its vice-chairs and members have expertise in both human rights
and modern dispute resolution techniques. The Tribunal's goal is to ensure all
claims of discrimination are addressed in a timely way, and resolved fairly,
based on the facts and the law.
    The Tribunal's new hearing and mediation facilities, located at 655 Bay
Street in Toronto, are fully accessible. The Tribunal will also hold
mediations and hearings in regional hearing centres across the province.

    HUMAN RIGHTS LEGAL SUPPORT CENTRE

    The new Human Rights Legal Support Centre (http://www.hrlsc.on.ca/)
offers independent human rights legal support to individuals who believe their
rights have been violated under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Staff at the
Centre help claimants understand how the law applies to their situation, and
assist them in completing new application forms before the Tribunal. The
Centre's services are free for individual applicants who need them and range
from legal assistance in filing an application at the Tribunal, to legal
representation on discrimination applications. Claimants do not have to use
the Centre's services and can file an application with the Tribunal without
getting assistance from the Centre.
    The Human Rights Legal Support Centre's fully accessible main office is
located at 400 University Avenue, Toronto; however, its services are available
to people across the province.

    DISCRIMINATION CLAIMS IN TRANSITION

    All discrimination applications are now to be filed directly with the
Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. People who filed human rights complaints
with the Ontario Human Rights Commission before June 30, 2008 that have not
been completed can continue their complaint in one of two ways:

    
    -  Drop their complaint with the Commission and file an application under
       an expedited process established by the Tribunal, between June 30 and
       December 31, 2008
    -  Continue their complaint with the Commission until January 1, 2009 and
       then file a new application with the Tribunal through the regular
       process, if required.
    

    For information on this transition process and the options, contact the
Ontario Human Rights Commission (http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en) at 1-800-387-9080
or TTY 1-800-308-5561.

    
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    BACKGROUNDER
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                SUPPORT FOR ONTARIO'S NEW HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM
    

    Ontario has launched a new human rights system that will ensure the
speedy resolution of human rights cases, provide individuals with human rights
application-related legal services, and promote, protect and advance human
rights throughout the province.
    Here's what people are saying about the new strategy:
    "Today is an important day in Ontario's history as Ontarians for the
first time are empowered to directly enforce their fundamental human rights,"
said Mary Cornish, Chair of the 1992 Ontario Human Rights Code Review Task
Force. "With a new human rights system focussed on securing systemic
compliance, the Ontario Government, employers, service and accommodation
providers are now in a position to make significant progress in realizing the
right of all Ontarians to live and work free of discrimination."
    "We are very excited that our clients will finally have their matters
heard before a decision maker in an expeditious manner," said Ryan Peck,
Executive Director, HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic (Ontario).
    "CERA is pleased to welcome a healthier human rights environment in the
province and we look forward to a faster resolution of discrimination claims -
of particular advantage to people who have been shut out of the housing market
because of race, disability or source of income," said Leilani Farha, Acting
Executive Director, Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA).
    "The Ontario Bar Association actively participated in the legislative
process leading up to these changes and we believe they will ensure strong and
effective human rights protections in Ontario," said Gregory Goulin, President
of the Ontario Bar Association.
    "This is an historic moment for human rights in Ontario," said Bruce
Porter, of the Social Rights Advocacy Centre. "For many years, the United
Nations has asked that Canada's provincial human rights laws be changed to
ensure that everyone has the right to an effective remedy before a competent
human rights tribunal. With today's launch of the new human rights system,
Ontario has answered the international community's call."
    "We applaud the effort of the Ontario government to make Ontario's human
rights system more accessible and easier to use," said Derry Millar, Treasurer
of the Law Society of Upper Canada.
    "ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the renewed opportunity to advance a
human rights system in Ontario that works for all for whom the right to live
free from discrimination is infringed," said Ivana Petricone, Executive
Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre. "The Board and staff of ARCH look
forward to a reinvigorated and accessible process for the enforcement of human
rights through the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, a strengthened Ontario
Human Rights Commission poised to achieve greater social change and a culture
of human rights, and a partnership with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre
in ensuring access to justice to all those who seek it."
    "The Commission's expanded role to combat systemic discrimination and to
educate the public about the importance of diversity will increase the
opportunities for racialized people in Ontario to live and work free from
discrimination," said Ahmed Hussein, President of the Somali Canadian
Congress. "We applaud the Ontario government for leading these groundbreaking
reforms."

    
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For further information:

For further information: Sheamus Murphy, Ministry of the Attorney
General, Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785; Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the
Attorney General, Communications Branch, (416) 326-2210

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