Skip to main content

Barbara Hall was one of four former Toronto mayors gathered at the Globe and Mail to discuss the upcoming Toronto municipal elections.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Despite progress in advancing equality over the past decades, there is also much to be discouraged about, the head of Ontario's rights agency said Tuesday.

In releasing the Ontario Human Rights Commission's annual report, chief commissioner Barbara Hall said some of the problems even feel personal.

"There's some really persistent issues: anti-black racism and discrimination towards aboriginal peoples," Ms. Hall said in an interview.

Story continues below advertisement

"As a woman I find it discouraging the persistence of sexual harassment."

Ms. Hall said barriers to equality also include discrimination based on religion, disability and sexual orientation.

There's still a "clear need" to prevent discrimination against individuals and to eliminate systemic barriers, she said.

"Some long-identified human rights issues have been very slow to change," the annual report states.

"The discrimination faced by aboriginal peoples continues, and is hugely damaging."

The annual report highlights the commission's work over the past year, including its legal interventions and policy development.

The past year also saw the commission hold its largest-ever public consultation into discrimination faced by people with mental-health disabilities — a problem only now moving to the forefront as a human rights issue even though about one-in-five Canadians will suffer some form of mental illness during their lives.

Story continues below advertisement

More than 1,000 people with mental-health issues sent lengthy submissions about their experiences of discrimination in health-care system, housing, education and the workforce.

"We were amazed, I think it's fair to say, at the response," Ms. Hall said of the response to the consultations. "There are many issues there."

Now that the consultations are out of the way, the commission will spend the coming year developing a policy and advice on how to apply the human rights code in cases of mental illness.

Society and institutions simply don't have the skills to deal with the problem, so areas will include practical advice on how to accommodate people in the workplace and the various options and steps.

"It is a tough one," Ms. Hall said. "It's been hidden in the closet."

The commissioner also said she was pleased the sexually transgendered — a group that has suffered discrimination and even violence — are now explicitly protected by the rights code.

Story continues below advertisement

The agency also released a blueprint to follow when conflicts arise between competing rights.

It is looking to come up with a new definition of "creed," which the commission last defined in 1996 as a professed system and confession of faith — a definition that may be "outdated," the report states.

The human rights commission spent a total of $5.5 million in the past fiscal year, according to the report.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter