The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) between 4th and 10th December 2016 visited a number of Canadian institutions whose mandate is to eliminate discrimination and marginalization and to ensure equal opportunities for all in the country. Among the institutions visited by the EOC included the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Human Rights Support Centre of the Government of Ontario all of which are pillars of Ontario’s human rights system.
The purpose of the visit was to share experiences on the complaints management system arising from claims of discrimination with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and Tribunal, to learn key strategies on preventing discrimination through public education and sensitization, gain practical experiences with the Commission on their monitoring function on redressing the imbalances and promoting equal opportunities and understand the relationship between the Commission and Tribunal in the execution of their mandate.
The EOC was represented by Ms. Sylvia Muwebwa Ntambi – Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Mr. Dennis Nduhura – Vice Chairperson, Ms. Zaminah Malole – Member, Mr. Joel Cox Ojuko – Member, Mr. Patrobas Wafula Sirabo – Member, Ms. Bernaddette Kizza Nalule – Commissioner Legal Services and Investigations and Ms. Joyce Freda Apio – Human Rights and Governance Advisor GIZ/EOC under facilitation from the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) and GIZ.
During their stay, the delegation from the Equal Opportunities Commission shared their experiences on complaints handling, participated in tribunal sessions at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, visited and held meetings with the Law Society of Upper Canada. The lessons learnt from the visit will provide hands-on practical learning experiences for the Commission Members and technical staff to enrich complaints management, monitoring, education and sensitization by the EOC.
The rationale for EOC’s visit to the Ontario Human Rights Commission and Tribunal was to enable it borrow a leaf from their procedures of work since the two institutions have similarities in mandate, functions and powers of courts of law to receive, investigate and hear complaints alleging to discrimination.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission is a government agency that was established in 1961 to prevent discrimination, advance and promote human rights in Ontario. The Commission accomplishes this through its researches, education, legal action and policy development.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario too was established in 1961 to resolve claims of discrimination and harassment brought under the human rights code. Prior to holding a hearing, the tribunal offers parties the opportunity to settle the dispute through mediation. If the parties involved disagree on mediation, the tribunal then proceeds to hold a hearing. The Human Rights tribunal of Ontario receives and provides fair and accessible complaint dispute resolution to thousands of people in Ontario and it is the largest human rights tribunal among the provinces.