HUMAN RIGHTS

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Human Rights

Human rights are commonly understood as fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being. Human rights are thus conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national and international law.

The doctrine of human rights in international practice, within international law, global and regional institutions, in the policies of states and in the activities of non-governmental organizations, has been a cornerstone of public policy around the world.

  • Right to life
  • Freedom from torture
  • Freedom from slavery
  • Right to a fair trial
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Events and new possibilities can affect existing rights or require new ones. Advances of technology, medicine, and philosophy constantly challenge the status quo of human rights thinking

THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris). The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. It consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws. The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols. In 1966 the General Assembly adopted the two detailed Covenants, which complete the International Bill of Human Rights; and in 1976, after the Covenants had been ratified by a sufficient number of individual nations, the Bill took on the force of international law

HUMAN RIGHTS IN CANADA

The Constitution of Canada was amended in 1982 to entrench the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which begins with the words, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.” This phrase underlines the importance of religious traditions to Canadian society and the dignity and worth of the human person.

The Charter attempts to summarize fundamental freedoms while also setting out additional rights. The most important of these include:

  • Mobility Rights – Canadians can live and work anywhere they choose in Canada, enter and leave the country freely, and apply for a passport.
  • Aboriginal Peoples’ Rights – The rights guaranteed in the Charter will not adversely affect any treaty or other rights or freedoms of Aboriginal peoples.
  • Official Language Rights and Minority Language Educational Rights – French and English have equal status in Parliament and throughout the government.
  • Multiculturalism – A fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity. Canadians celebrate the gift of one another’s presence and work hard to respect pluralism and live in harmony.
  • Equality of Women and Men – In Canada, men and women are equal under the law. Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings,” female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.

Protecting Human Rights

There are currently four key mechanisms in Canada to protect human rights:

  • the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • the Canadian Human Rights Act
  • the Canadian Human Rights Commission
  • provincial human rights laws and legislation

The issue of human rights in Canada has not attracted significant controversy relative to human rights issues in other countries. Most Canadians believe the country to be a strong proponent and positive model of human rights for the rest of the world. For example, in 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act.

Canada does have to deal with some issues of human rights abuses that have attracted condemnation from international bodies, such as the United Nations. For example, some provinces still allow the use of religiously segregated schools. The treatment of Canada’s First Nations people or Aboriginal Canadians and the disabled also continues to attract criticism.

HUMAN RIGHTS IN ONTARIO

Ontario’s Human Rights Code protects people in Ontario against discrimination in areas such as jobs, housing and services. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre and the Ontario Human Rights Commission make up the province’s human rights system.

A New Human Rights System for Ontario

On June 30, 2008, the province launched its new human rights system, consisting of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the new Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

The new system is designed to help promote and advance human rights, resolve discrimination claims faster and provide people with legal support if they need it.

Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

http://www.hrto.ca/hrto/

All claims of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code are now filed directly with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Tribunal is an independent, neutral body that resolves applications through mediation or adjudication. Its adjudicators are experts in both human rights and dispute resolution. The Tribunal’s goal is to ensure all claims of discrimination are resolved and addressed in a timely way.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario deals with all claims of discrimination filed under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Tribunal resolves applications through mediation or adjudication. The Tribunal’s goal is to resolve claims in a fair, open and timely manner.

Contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario if you want:

  • To know more about all applicable laws
  • Information about the status of your case
  • An application guide
  • Copies of any Tribunal forms
  • Information about the Tribunal’s procedures.

Visit the website of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario if you need practice directions about:

  • Applications on Behalf of Another Person
  • Communicating with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
  • Electronic Filing by Licensed Representatives
  • Hearings
  • Hearings in Regional Centres
  • Naming Respondents
  • Reconsideration
  • Recording Hearings
  • Requests for Language Interpretation
  • Requests to Expedite an Application and Requests for an Interim Remedy
  • Scheduling
  • Summary Hearing Requests

Human Rights Legal Support Centre

http://www.hrlsc.on.ca/

The new Human Rights Legal Support Centre offers independent human rights legal support to people 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 help them complete new application forms before the Tribunal. The Centre’s services are free of charge for people who need them and range from legal help in filing an application at the Tribunal, to legal representation on cases.

The Human Rights Legal Support Centre offers human rights application-related legal support services to individuals who believe they have experienced discrimination.

Contact the Centre if you think you have been discriminated against and want:

  • Advice about next steps
  • Help with the application process.

Ontario Human Rights Commission

http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en

With its new and enhanced role, the Ontario Human Rights Commission 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 file applications or intervene in important cases before the Tribunal.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission works to promote, protect and advance human rights. Its main focus is to address the root causes of discrimination. Through outreach, cooperation and partnership the Commission aims to advance Ontario’s human rights culture.

Contact the Commission if you want to learn more about:

  • Human rights education and outreach
  • Human rights issues in Ontario

Contacts and Links

  • For information on human rights in Ontario visit: Ontario.ca/humanrights
  • Or call: Toll free 1-800-387-9080, TTY (Toll Free) 1-800-308-5561
  • Ontario Human Rights Commission
  • Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
  • Human Rights Legal Support Centre
  • You can purchase a copy of the Ontario Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006 from Publications Ontario by calling 1-800-668-9938 or 416-326-5300.

The History of Human Rights in Ontario

Ontario has a proud record of leadership in protecting human rights.

In 1944, Ontario passed the Racial Discrimination Act. It was based on the principle that every person is free and equal in dignity and rights regardless of race, creed, colour, nationality, ancestry or place of origin.

Four years later, the United Nations adopted the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which sets out fundamental rights and freedoms, as a common standard of achievement for all people and all nations.

Ontario’s human rights system was, and still is, based on that declaration.

In 1962, Ontario enacted the first comprehensive human rights code in Canada, to protect people against discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and in accommodation, goods, services and facilities.

The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, colour, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, creed, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, age, disability or citizenship. It provides that every Ontarian has the right to equal treatment in employment, accommodation, goods, services, facilities, contracts and membership in vocational associations.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission was set up to administer and enforce the Code. At first, ad hoc boards of inquiry were appointed to adjudicate cases involving discrimination under the new Code. In 1995, the Board of Inquiry was established as a permanent, stand-alone tribunal. And in 2002, the name was changed to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Calls to reform and modernize Ontario’s human rights system began in the 1990s. In December 2006, the Ontario Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006 was passed.

MAKING A DISCRIMINATION CLAIM

What is discrimination?

Discrimination generally means treating someone unfairly based on things like:

  • Race
  • Colour
  • Religion or creed
  • National or ethnic origin
  • Citizenship
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital or family status

What is harassment?

Harassment refers to comments or actions that are unwelcome. Every person has the right to be free from humiliating or annoying behaviour.

I think I have been discriminated against, what do I do?

  • You must file an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Their website has an Applicant’s Guide, Respondent’s Guide, Plain Language Guide, and the Rules of Procedure Governing Part IV Applications.
  • You can also call the Tribunal toll-free at 1-866-598-0322

How can I find out about my existing discrimination complaint at the Commission?

  • To find out about the status of your claim, you can call the Commission toll-free at 1-800-387-9080.
  • Because of changes to the system, you need to make a decision about how your case at the Ontario Human Rights Commission will be handled.

How do I file a new discrimination application under the Ontario Human Rights Code?

  • You must file an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Their website has an Applicant’s Guide, Respondent’s Guide, Plain Language Guide, and the Rules of Procedure Governing Part IV Applications.
  • You can also call the Tribunal toll-free at 1-866-598-0322

How can I find the discrimination application form?

The Tribunal’s application form consists of a main application that all applicants must fill out, plus one or more supplemental forms.

Is there an application guide that can help me?

Yes. You can read each part of this guide as you fill out your application.

Can I get help to fill out the form?

Yes. The Human Rights Legal Support Centre provides legal help to people in communities across Ontario who believe they have been discriminated against, and may want to file an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Do I need a lawyer to file a discrimination application?

You can have a lawyer or a paralegal represent you, or you can represent yourself in a discrimination application.

I have had a human rights application brought against me. Where can I get information for respondents?

  • The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario’s Respondent’s Guide can help you fill out your Response Form.
  • If you have been named, either personally or on behalf of your company, in a human rights case at the Ontario Human Rights Commission you may be affected by changes to the system.

Guides for the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

All Guides for the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario you can find at the following link: http://www.hrto.ca/hrto/?q=en/node/48

  • Applicant’s Guide (June 2008, last amended May 2010)
  • Respondent’s Guide (June 2008, last amended October 2010)
  • Plain Language Guide (June 2008, last amended July 2010)
  • Guide to Preparing for a Hearing Before the HRTO (December 2009, last amended July 2010)
Sources:
  • The Human Rights Code, 1990
  • The Ontario Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006
  • http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/ohrc/
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Author: AllOntario Team

AllOntario.ca is a Problem-Solving Guide for Ontario residents and a marketplace for Ontario businesses. It’s all about living and doing business in Ontario. All in one site.