Ontario Human Rights Commission looking into discriminatory street, building names

Sep 24 2021, 3:01 pm

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is seeking public feedback on discriminatory street, building, and landmark names to help them develop a policy statement addressing these issues.

The OHRC announced the initiative on Thursday, saying that it would also collect feedback on names, logos, and mascots of groups or organizations, as well as commemorative days, events, statues and plaques.

“Human rights law has found that images and words that degrade people because of their ancestry, race, colour or ethnic origin may create a poisoned environment, amount to a denial of service, and violate the [Ontario Human Rights] Code,” the OHRC announcement reads.

The new OHRC policy statement will focus on Ontario service providers’ legal obligations to prevent and address discrimination against racialized communities and other Code-protected groups when displaying discriminatory names, words, and images.

“What’s in a name?” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Patricia DeGuire. “Often everything. We continue to hear about communities disturbed by the name of a street, a sports team, a building or a monument. This policy statement is being designed to help foster better understanding of the human rights issues involved, and to prompt communities to work together in a respectful way to overcome these issues.”

A draft of the policy is published online. The OHRC is asking the public to provide feedback on it. Some of the proposed positions include service providers ensuring that the words and images they display do not result in denial of service, harassment, or a poisoned environment for protected people. Propositions also suggest that service providers take on a legal obligation to respond to and investigate complaints of discrimination involving the display of words and images within their service environments.

The policy can be read in full here, and anyone wishing to provide feedback can do so through an online survey.

Laura HanrahanLaura Hanrahan

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