Updated Creed Policy gives guidance on protecting rights

TORONTO, Dec. 10, 2015 /CNW/ - The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) today releases an updated Policy on preventing discrimination based on creed. The OHRC introduced its first policy on creed in 1996. Since that time, Ontario society has grown increasingly more diverse and there have been many important legal and social developments. The update reflects today's issues and changes to case law, and provides expanded information in areas like Indigenous Spirituality and creed-based profiling.

"The right to be treated equally based on creed, to freely hold and practice creed beliefs of one's choosing, and to be protected from creed being imposed, are fundamental human rights in Ontario," commented Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner. "Today's Ontario society shows a diversity of people from all parts of the world with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs and practices. This new policy can be valuable roadmap for helping people who need to address new and emerging human rights issues in the area of creed and religion. It can also ensure that all Ontarians can equally access, contribute to and benefit from Ontario society and its institutions regardless of what their creed beliefs may be."

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, people are protected from discrimination based on creed in five social areas – housing, services, employment, contracts, unions and professional associations. In the policy, creed includes religion, broadly defined. It may also include other non-religious belief systems that, like religion, substantially influence a person's identity, worldview and way of life. The goal of the policy is to help Ontarians better understand and respond to diversity based on creed in ways that are inclusive and protect human rights. Questions about the appropriate nature and limits of rights relating to religion and creed have increasingly assumed centre stage in public discourse. With our changing society and the emergence of new belief systems, it was time to revisit our policy to make sure it reflected today's complex reality.

The policy gives people the information they need to advocate for their rights, and meet their responsibilities under the Code. It suggests how to set up systems to protect those rights by providing the tools, practical scenarios and information that can be applied to everyday situations, so that potential human rights violations can be addressed quickly or prevented from happening in the first place.

Specifically, the policy sets out:

  • an overview of the current and historical trends and issues that shape discrimination based on creed today
  • a new section on Indigenous creed practices and how to accommodate them, including smudging and other ceremonies
  • a wide range of specific situations and offers steps on how to accommodate, for example, Sabbath requirements, dress codes and dietary requirements
  • an expanded definition of creed which may also include non-religious belief systems that like religion, substantially influence a person's identity, worldview, and way of life
  • updated case law references.

As part of the process for developing this policy, the OHRC conducted a policy dialogue on human rights, creed and freedom of religion in January 2012, and a legal workshop on human rights, creed and freedom of religion in March 2012. It also conducted a Human Rights and Creed Survey and published Human Rights and Creed Research and Consultation Report in the Fall of 2013. These materials, and the policy, are available for download on our website.

Established in 1961, the OHRC is one part of Ontario's system for human rights, alongside the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC). The OHRC's main roles involve public education, policy development, research and bringing people and communities together to help resolve issues of "tension and conflict". It also conducts public inquiries, intervenes in proceedings at the HRTO and can initiate its own applications (formerly called 'complaints').

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SOURCE Ontario Human Rights Commission

For further information: Afroze Edwards, Senior Communications Officer, Ontario Human Rights Commission, 416-314-4528

RELATED LINKS
http://www.ohrc.on.ca

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