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A message from the members of the Community Advisory Group (CAG) of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)

January 25, 2020 Social Justice

January 23rd, 2020

 

Attorney General Hon. Doug Downey McMurtry-Scott Building, 11th Floor 720 Bay Street

Toronto, Ontario M7A 2S9

cc’d

The Office of the Integrity Commissioner, David Wake Leader of Offical Opposition, Andrea Horwath

Ontario Human Rights Chief Commissioner, Renu Mandhane

 

Dear Attorney General:

 

We are members of the Community Advisory Group (CAG) of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). The CAG was created in accordance with the provision of the Ontario Human Rights Code that empowers the Chief Commissioner to create Advisory Groups s. 31.5. As individuals coming from different communities and working in different sectors across the province, we provide ideas and advice to the OHRC regarding its strategic priorities: embodying human rights through reconciliation, enforcing human rights in the criminal justice system, advancing human rights by addressing poverty, and promoting a human rights culture through education. We carry out our mandate by facilitating ongoing and meaningful conversations between the OHRC and the many communities we serve in order to foster collaboration, partnerships and mutual support.

 

We write to you out of concern over the choice by the Provincial government to bypass the OHRC’s commissioner selection and recommendation process that was underway, by appointing two members whose applications were not reviewed by the Chief Commissioner. The OHRC’s process is in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding between the Chief Commissioner and the Attorney General. We are troubled that the 330 people who applied for the OHRC Commissioner positions were overlooked and instead the government made a decision without informing the Commission. It is extremely important that we have merit-based appointments through a rigorous process to ensure the independence of the OHRC.

 

One of the government’s direct appointees is a Toronto Police Services Officer on active duty. The OHRC’s mandate includes addressing concerns about racial profiling within law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and it continually engages with various institutions across the province on this matter, including a current public inquiry into racial profiling and discrimination by the Toronto Police Service itself. Regardless of whether the new appointee recuses himself from any TPS inquiry or decision regarding policing issues, it impugns the perceived independence of the Commission and undermines trust in the OHRC from diverse communities.

 

As you know part-time Commissioners are an integral part of the OHRC. Apart from providing strategic advice and good governance, part-time Commissioners also bring valuable perspectives from the various communities they represent and in so doing, help ensure the OHRC is responsive to the needs of the people of Ontario, especially those

 

who are among the most marginalized. It is essential that qualified candidates with a demonstrated commitment to human rights and who reflect the many communities that comprise Ontario’s landscape are appointed to the OHRC in an open and transparent process.

 

We urge the provincial government to rescind the OHRC appointments and return to the established merit-based appointment process. The Commission’s independence and impartiality are essential to its ongoing success.

 

We thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you. Yours truly,

Juana Berinstein, Director of Policy and Communication, Association of Ontario Midwives

Paul Champ, Lawyer, Champ & Associates

Mojdeh Cox

Mike Creek, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Working for Change

Jeremy Dias, Director of The International Day of Pink & Founder of the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity

Debbie Douglas, Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Patti Fairfield, Executive Director, Ne-Chee Indigenous Friendship Centre

Lyndon George, Indigenous Justice Coordinator, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic

Avvy Go, Clinic Director, Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

Kenneth Hale, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)

Ian Hamilton, Executive Director, Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education

Lori Kleinsmith, Health Promotor, Bridges Community Health Centre Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre Elizabeth McIsaac, President, Maytree Foundation

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Director, Equality Program, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Fallon Melander, Manager, Indigenous Relations, Metrolinx

Pamela Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance, Ryerson University

Cecil Roach, Coordinating Superintendent of Education, Indigenous Education and Equity, York Region District School Board

Nancy Rowe, Knowledge Keeper, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation

Catherine Soplet, Member, Peel Poverty Action Group

Balpreet Singh, Legal Counsel, World Sikh Organization of Canada

 

  1. The Office of the Integrity Commissioner, David Wake Leader of Offical Opposition, Andrea Horwath

Ontario Human Rights Chief Commissioner, Renu Mandhane

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