Policy on Competing Human Rights

AuthorOntario Human Rights Commission
Chapter 1
Policy on Competing Human Rights
Ontario Human Rights Commission
As people better understand their rights and wish to exercise
of others. This is especially true in Ontario’s increasingly diverse
        
or group tries to enjoy or exercise a right, interest, or value in an
organizational context (e.g. in schools, employment, housing). At
        
    
example, the right to be free from discrimination based on creed
or sexual orientation or gender may be at odds with each other
or with other rights, laws, and practices. Can a religious employer
require an employee to sign a “morality pledge” not to engage in
certain sexual activity? Can an accuser testify wearing a niqab (a
face veil worn by some for religious reasons) at the criminal trial
of her accused? How do you resolve a situation where a profes-
sor’s guide dog causes a severe allergic reaction in a student?
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provincial human
rights legislation (including the Ontario Human Rights Code), and
the courts recognize that no rights are absolute and no one right
is more important than another right. Our laws guarantee rights
such as freedom of expression as well as protection against
discrimination and harassment based on gender, creed, sexual
orientation and disability, among other grounds. They require we
Ontario Human Rights Commission
give all rights equal consideration. The law also recognizes that
rights have limits in some situations where they substantially
interfere with the rights of others.
The courts have said we must go through a process on a
case-by-case basis to search for solutions to reconcile compet-
ing rights and accommodate individuals and groups, if possible.
This search can be challenging, controversial, and sometimes
dissatisfying to one side or the other. But it is a shared respon-
sibility and made easier when we better understand the nature
of one another’s rights and obligations and demonstrate mutual
respect for the dignity and worth of all involved. Finding the best
solution for maximizing enjoyment of rights takes dialogue and
even debate.
Ontario’s Human Rights Code says the Ontario Human Rights
Ontario’s communities and encouraging and co-ordinating plans,
programs, and activities to do this. The OHRC has developed this
Policy on Competing Human Rights to help organizations and
Goals of policy
The Policy on Competing Human Rights is intended to be a useful
tool for individuals and organizations as they deal with different
       
       -
For example, everyone involved should:
show dignity and respect for one another
encourage mutual recognition of interests, rights, and
facilitate maximum recognition of rights, wherever possible
help parties to understand the scope of their rights and
address stigma and power imbalances and help to give
Policy On Competing Human Rights
marginalized individuals and groups a voice
agreeable solutions that maximize enjoyment of rights.
The approach in the policy can help organizations and decision-
litigation cannot be avoided, the policy provides a framework that
can be used by courts and tribunals as they deal with these types
Employers, housing providers, educators, and other responsible
parties covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code have the ulti-
mate responsibility for maintaining an inclusive environment that is
free from discrimination and harassment, and where everyone’s
human rights are respected. As part of this, organizations and
institutions operating in Ontario have a legal duty to take steps to
prevent and respond to situations involving competing rights.
Organizations can reduce the potential for human rights con-
being very familiar with the Ontario Human Rights Code and
with their obligations under it
taking steps to educate and train responsible individuals
on competing rights situations and the OHRC’s Policy on
Competing Human Rights
having in place a clear and comprehensive competing rights
policy that:
* sets out the process to be followed when a competing
rights situation arises
* alerts all parties to their rights, roles, and responsibilities
* commits the organization to deal with competing rights

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