By: GARRETT BARRY
The Ontario Human Rights Commission featured their new policy on competing human rights in a press conference at Ottawa City Hall on Oct. 3.
The new policy is designed to solve conflicts when two parties feel their rights conflict.
“We are seeing this a lot right now in the context of education,” OHRC senior policy analyst Cherie Robertson said.
She says the conflict between sex education and religious freedom in Ontario’s public schools is one of the more prominent cases of competing human rights.
Chief commissioner Barbara Hall added that the OHRC is not dealing with hypothetical situations
According to Hall, the policy recognizes that “no rights are absolute, and no one right is more important than another.” However, it also “recognizes that rights have limits in some situations where they substantially interfere with the rights of others.”
The policy aims to bring two sides of any conflict together to create a “learning conversation” and develop understanding between the two parties.
The framework first attempts to help all parties understand their rights claims and determine if those claims “connect to legitimate rights.”
The next step in the framework is to search for a solution that “allows the enjoyment of each right,” or a “next best” solution.
While the framework has already been recommended for use in two Canadian Supreme Court cases, Robertson says she hopes the policy will be put in place at organizational levels to solve conflicts before they reach the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
“Very few people can afford to go to court,” said Errol Mendes of the OHRC.
Hall said that OHRC’s next step is to showcase the policy to the community.
“Our first responsibility is to educate people about the policy. A lot of our work in the next while will be training,” she said.
“Since the release we’ve had a lot of requests to come and educate.”
Denise Jessica Freedman of Pink Triangle Services, a prominent Queer community centre in Ottawa, said she was disappointed that the policy book did not include examples from all sections of the Queer community.
“I was looking for examples that were not same sex marriage” said Freedman.
Robertson says the policy still applies to issues of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.