Statement From Attorney General John Gerretsen On The 50th Anniversary Of The Ontario Human Rights Code
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to recognize a significant milestone in human rights. June 15th marks the 50th anniversary of the Human Rights Code of Ontario.
Ontario is a trailblazer. Fifty years ago we enacted the country's first Human Rights Code. The Code provided us with a framework of human rights goals and standards to aspire to - and it was a declaration to all that injustices would not be tolerated.
The Code ensures all Ontarians have equal rights and opportunities and prevents discrimination and harassment based on things such as race or ancestry; place of origin or colour; citizenship or creed; and sex, sexual orientation, disability, and age.
Ontario has a proud history of protecting and advancing human rights and is recognized around the world as a pioneer. But we did not achieve this status overnight.
As a society, we have worked hard for the gains we've made - never settling for the status quo, and constantly pushing for change where change was needed.
We have come a long way over the years, aided by the efforts of many brave women and men.
Take the story of Daniel Hill, the head of Ontario's first Human Rights Commission. Just a few decades ago, Mr. Hill found out first-hand how it felt to face racism in the search for a place to live.
Hill, a black man, had done something almost unheard of at the time -- he married a white woman.
When Hill and his wife Donna tried to rent their first apartment in Toronto, Donna had to bring a white friend with her to meet with the apartment owners.
It took weeks before the Hills could get a formal lease.
While there are many more examples I could mention, stories such as this illustrate just how far we've come in the past 50 years.
Mr. Speaker, we can be proud of the leadership role that we have played in furthering human rights in Canada, and for the great work that has been done and continues to be done. But, we must continue to be vigilant in order to protect these gains.
Four years ago, our government proudly took a leadership role by introducing a new and strengthened human rights system consisting of:
- The Ontario Human Rights Commission
- The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and
- A new Human Rights Legal Support Centre.
These institutions are now working for the people of Ontario.
We modernized and strengthened the system by giving people direct access to the decision makers, and offering free legal, advisory and support services for those who feel they have experienced discrimination.
To ensure that we remain on track, our government included a commitment to conduct an independent review of the system's progress after three years.
Last year Andrew Pinto, a prominent human rights and employment lawyer, was appointed to lead this important work.
Mr. Pinto is now looking at the implementation and effectiveness of these changes, and will prepare a report which I look forward to reviewing.
We can be very proud of the fact that Ontario is leading the way in advancing human rights in Canada.
We have taken steps to strengthen our human rights system to better ensure dignity and justice for all Ontarians, and ensure that each and every person has the right to live freely and be treated with respect.
We've worked hard to make certain Ontario is a welcoming, tolerant and accepting place where our citizens are free to pursue their hopes and dreams. We owe it to people like Mr. Hill.
As we recognize the 50th anniversary of the Ontario Human Rights Code, I take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to upholding human rights for every person in Ontario.