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The Ontario Human Rights Commission was established in the Canadianmarker province of Ontariomarker in 1961 to administer the Ontario Human Rights Code. The commission is an arm's length agency of government accountable to the legislature through the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario.

The commission's mandate under the code includes: preventing discrimination through public education and public policy; and looking into situations where discriminatory behaviour exists.

Since June 30, 2008, all new complaints of discrimination are filed as applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) is an independent adjudicative agency of the Ontario government and is entirely separate from the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

There is a full-time chief commissioner and a varying number of part-time commissioners, appointed by Order-in-Council. Staff of the commission is appointed under the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006.

Barbara Hall was appointed chief commissioner effective November 28, 2005, replacing Keith Norton, who had led the Commission since 1996.

The mission

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is committed to the elimination of discrimination in society by providing the people of Ontario with strong leadership and quality service:

in the effective enforcement of the Ontario Human Rights Code; and
in the promotion and advancement of human rights.

Dismissing a Complaint

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal may dismiss a complaint per s.45.1:
45.1 The Tribunal may dismiss an application, in whole or in part, in accordance with its rules if the Tribunal is of the opinion that another proceeding has appropriately dealt with the substance of the application.

Proposal for a National Press Council

In February 2009, in a report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the OHRC recommended the creation of a National Press Council that would serve as a national media watchdog. Unlike current press councils in Canada, membership to this new council would be required by all publishers, webmasters and radio and television producers.

Hall stated that such a council was necessary to protect human rights but insisted that such a body would not result in censorship of the media. She explained that the national press council would have the power to accept complaints of discrimination, in particular from "vulnerable groups" and although the council would have no power to censor media outlets, it could force them to carry the council's decisions, including counterarguments made by complainants.

Mary Agnes Welch, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, stated that the current provincial press councils are "the only real place that readers can go to complain about stories short of the courts" but that they "are largely toothless and ineffective." However, she argued against a mandatory national press council, stating that:

"The provincial ones don't even work, so how could we have a national one? And I know a lot of journalists who would take umbrage at essentially being in a federally regulated profession.... If on the crazy off-chance that there is some momentum behind this idea of a national press council, it won't be coming from journalists."

The National Post strongly opposed the OHRC's proposal, arguing that a mandatory national press council "is merely the first step toward letting the Barbara Halls of the world decide what you get to hear, see and read." The Post also stated that Hall is a "pompous purveyor of social concern" who believes she "has the ability to judge which speech should be free and which not." Barbara Kay also strongly opposed Hall's suggestion, stating that her experience with the Quebec Press Council was evidence that press councils are abused by those wishing to suppress the discussion of sensitive or controversial issues.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. Human rights commission calls for media council by Joseph Brean, National Post, February 11, 2009.
  3. No to national censorship council, (editorial), National Post , February 12, 2009.
  4. Barbara Kay, The perils of a national press council: Been there, done that by Barbara Kay, National Post, February 12, 2009.

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