Community Advisory Group

The OHRC has created a Community Advisory Group to provide ongoing ideas and advice as we work to meet our strategic priorities: embodying human rights through reconciliation, enforcing human rights in the criminal justice system, advancing human rights by addressing poverty, and promoting a human rights culture through education. This group was set up to begin – and in many cases to continue – an ongoing, meaningful conversation between the OHRC and the many communities we serve. The conversation is about collaboration, partnerships and mutual support.

Our Strategic Plan commits us to putting people and their rights at the centre – and this group will help us do just that.

We had an application and selection process, which began with inviting individuals to submit a statement of interest. We asked members to commit to one-year terms, which are renewable.

Community Advisory Group members reflect a wide cross-section of Ontario communities, including:

  • Persons with lived experience, across Code grounds
  • Persons who have worked in organizations providing services to the community or representing community members in their area of related expertise
  • Persons with diverse geographic representation
  • Persons with academic or policy expertise
  • First Nations, Métis, and/or Inuit peoples
  • Representation from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC)
  • Representation from the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).

The OHRC works with many diverse stakeholders across Ontario. We will continue to seek advice, partnerships and support on an ongoing basis with individuals who may not be members of the Advisory Group. Our ultimate goal is to make sure that all Ontarians have a voice on human rights issues.

Zanana Akande

Zanana Akande was the first Black woman to be appointed to Ontario’s Cabinet, when she served as Minister of Community and Social Services in Premier Bob Rae’s government.

After leaving politics, Ms. Akande served as president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Canadian Alliance of Black Educators and the Toronto Child Abuse Centre. She worked with several other community-based endeavours including the United Way of Greater Toronto, the Family Services Association, the Elizabeth Fry Society and Doctors Hospital. She was the recipient of the African Canadian Achievement Award for Education and the Award of Distinction from the Congress of Black Women.

Ms. Akande is quoted as saying “A city as large and culturally diverse as Toronto owes whatever success in racial harmony it enjoys to the constant vigilance of its citizens, its officials, and its organizations.” In her years of public service she has continued to demonstrate the vigilance necessary to promote and encourage Toronto’s attempts towards racial harmony.

Nigel Barriffe
President, Urban Alliance on Race Relations

A community organizer and an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board in Rexdale, Nigel is a Board member of the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, Board Chair of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and a member of the Good Jobs For All Coalition. Nigel’s activist work focuses on quality public education, good green jobs, and a more just society for all inside and outside the classroom.

Elton Beardy
Board Member, Feathers of Hope

Juana Berinstein
Director of Policy and Communication, Association of Ontario Midwives

Juana Berinstein is the Director of Policy and Communications for the Association of Ontario Midwives (since 2007). Under her leadership, the Association has successfully campaigned for the expansion of midwifery, the development of birth centres and funding for Aboriginal midwifery. She has been involved in policy initiatives, systemic advocacy and community consultation at the municipal, provincial and federal level in the areas of health, workers’ rights and social justice.

Juana has a Master’s degree in Communication and Culture. She was a Board Member (2010-13) at Health Nexus, a leading non-profit organization working on health promotion and equity, and a mentor with Rainbow Health Ontario’s public policy institute, which looked at addressing health barriers for the 2SLGBTQ community (2014). She immigrated to Canada at the age of 7 from Argentina and lives in Toronto with her partner and their two wonderful daughters.

Paul Champ
Champ and Associates

Paul Champ is a human rights and employment lawyer based in Ottawa. Paul and his clients have established legal precedents in disability rights, privacy, racial discrimination, First Nations’ health care and child welfare, prisoners’ rights, and corporate accountability for abuses in foreign countries. Paul has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada on several occasions and in 2013 he was honoured by the International Commission of Jurists with the Tarnopolsky Human Rights Award for outstanding contributions to domestic and international human rights.

Uppala Chandrasekera
Director, Public Policy, Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario

Uppala Chandrasekera has over 15 years of work experience in the health sector, ranging from front-line work assisting individuals and families with mental health and addictions issues, to supporting mental health programming province-wide, and implementing the national strategy to address mental health across Canada.

Currently, Uppala is the Director of Public Policy at the Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario, and she also serves on the Board of Directors of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Her writings examine impact of the lived experience of discrimination on the health and well-being of marginalized individuals and communities, and her advocacy efforts are focused on reducing health disparities, promoting human rights and addressing discrimination in the health care and social services systems.

Twitter: @UppalaC

Jeewan Chanicka
Superintendent, Equity, Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression, Toronto District School Board

Jeewan Chanicka is the Superintendent of Equity, Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression at Toronto District School Board. His work is focused on embedding an anti-oppressive/racist approach through structures that impact student achievement and well-being. As an instructional leader in schools, he has worked to develop culturally responsive social justice inquiry for classrooms and schools. He has also spent much of his career working with students identified as being "at risk" and re-engaging them in schooling. He has consulted with the United Nations University of Peace, and was a Torchbearer for the 2015 PanAm games.

Jeewan is the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee award for his work in Education and Community Service. He is a community organizer and co-founder of the Coalition Against White Supremacy and Islamophobia. Recently, he recieved the Mary Samuels Educational Leadership Award from the Harmony Movement. Jeewan sits at the Anti-Racism Directorate's Provincial Roundtable on Islamophobia.

Lisa Cirillo
Executive Director, Downtown Legal Services,University of Toronto Faculty of Law Community Legal Clinic

Lisa Cirillo is the Executive Director of Downtown Legal Services, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law legal clinic. Lisa has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto. She studied law at Queen’s University and received her LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School.

Since her call the Bar in 1998, Lisa has practiced law in a wide variety of social justice organizations including DLS, ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In addition to her legal work, Lisa has extensive experience in public legal education, community outreach, teaching and training. She is a frequent presenter and requested speaker on a wide variety of public interest topics including family law, violence against women, poverty law, access to justice and human rights issues.

Lisa joined the Board of ACCLE (the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education) in 2011 and served as President from 2013 – 2017. She also serves as a member of the National Steering Committee for NAWL (National Association of Women and the Law) and Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Law Advisory Committee.

Claudette Commanda
Executive Director, First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres

Mojdeh Cox
National Director of Anti-Racism and Human Rights, Canadian Labour Congress

Mojdeh Cox is an award-winning and provincially recognized anti-racism and anti-oppression public educator and speaker. She has worked with municipalities, not-for-profit organizations, and small- to medium-sized businesses to develop strategies to be more inclusive and address system racism. In her professional life, Mojdeh works in government relations within the labour movement, advocating for better social, political and economic conditions for working people.

Mojdeh’s profound personal experiences with racism, sexism and xenophobia propelled her into what is not only her passion, but also survival as an activist for human rights. Mojdeh lives in Ottawa with her spouse and four children.

Michael Creek
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Working For Change

Michael Creek is the Director of Strategic Initiatives with Working for Change (; former coordinator of the Toronto Speakers Bureau, Voices from the Street, where he has learned research, public policy and public speaking. Michael is a psychiatric consumer/survivor and a person with a lived experience of homelessness and poverty.

Michael is also a Board Director at the Inner-city Family Health at Saint Michael’s Hospital, and is an Honorary Friend of Nursing with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO).

Michael continues to work with marginalized communities and people, and encourages them to speak out so that their voices can make a difference in shaping policy and planning with governments. Only when we as a society allow people who have been silenced by oppression and circumstance to be heard can we understand how to build a better place for us all.

Natalie Dagenais
Director, Policy, Research and International Division, Canadian Human Rights Commission

Natalie Dagenais is the Director of the Policy, Research and International Division at the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). Natalie has spent most of her career working in the human rights field. She started her career with a federally regulated employer, then joined the Public Service where, except for an assignment with the Treasury Board Secretariat in the early 2000s, she has worked mainly for the CHRC, where she has held various other positions, including that of Director of the Investigations Division.

Natalie has a Civil Law Degree (LL.L) and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), both from the University of Ottawa. She has been a member of the Quebec Bar since 1995.

Jeremy Dias
Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity

Jeremy Dias was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and grew up there until moving to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where he attended high school. As a youth, he was motivated by social and political inequality to take action, volunteering with many organizations and charities. In high school, he started and led several clubs including Stop Racism and Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving. He also founded and coordinated Sault Ste. Marie’s first regional LGBTQ youth group.

After coming out in high school, Jeremy faced extreme cases of discrimination by students and school officials. At 17, he began a legal case against his school and school board, and at 21 won Canada’s second largest human rights settlement. Jeremy used the money to found the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity, the International Day of Pink and the Jeremy Dias Scholarship.

Jeremy has been featured on Canada AM, Much Music, CTV News, Global News and CBC News; and has been a keynote speaker at countless conferences and events.

He has completed a degree in Psychology and Political Science at the University of Ottawa, continues to volunteer for several organizations including Minister of the Status of Women’s Gender Based Violence Prevention Advisory Committee and the Ottawa Police Liaison Committee. He is also a columnist for 2B Magazine in Montreal. Jeremy Dias currently serves as Director of the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity (and the International Day of Pink).

Debbie Douglas
Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Debbie Douglas is an active feminist and anti-racism activist. She is the Executive Director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, where she leads a sector of more than 230 agencies concerned with immigrant and refugee integration and social and economic inclusion.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Debbie was active in the leadership of Ontario’s first shelter geared to abused immigrant women; was also an advocate for employment equity and worked to establish anti-discriminatory systems and practices in public institutions with a focus on the intersection of identities. Debbie serves on many boards including the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, Women’s College Hospital, and co-chairs the City of Toronto’s Newcomer Leadership Table. She is the former co-chair of the National Working Group on Immigration and Settlement at the Canadian Council for Refugees.

Among her many awards are the 2004 YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Award, and the 2014 Race Relations award from the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. This year, she was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Inspire Awards.

Yasin Dwyer

Imam Yasin Dwyer was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba to parents of Jamaican heritage. Before joining Muslim Chaplaincy at Ryerson University, Yasin was a part of the multi-faith chaplaincy team at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He has lectured extensively on topics such as spirituality and the arts, Black Canadian culture and the history of Muslims in the west. Along with working alongside many non-profit organizations in Canada, Yasin was the first full-time Canadian Muslim chaplain to work with the Correctional Service of Canada, a position he held for 12 years. He is also a board member of the Montreal based Institut Route de la Soie/Silk Road Institute, which is dedicated to expressing Canadian Muslim narratives through the visual, auditory and performing arts.

Patti Fairfield
Executive Director, Ne-Chee Friendship Centre

Patti Fairfield is the Executive Director of the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre in Kenora, Ontario. Patti first started working at the friendship centre as an Employment Counsellor in October 2002. She started serving as Acting Executive Director in January 2013 and became the permanent Executive Director in October 2013, overseeing 20 programs that cover everything from employment and training, education, health, justice and social services.

Through her employment she sits on many committees.  She has been a Rotarian since 2014 and sits as a volunteer Board member for both Sunset Area Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service and the Adult Learning Line.

Janina Fogels
Senior Counsel and Manager of Legal Services, Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC)

Janina Fogels is currently Senior Counsel and Manager of Legal Services at the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, the clinic pillar of the human rights system. She is dedicated to advancing social justice and human rights through advocacy, education and community outreach initiatives. Janina was Executive Advisor to the Chief Commissioner of the OHRC from 2017-2018, where she provided the Chief Commissioner with advice and support in the implementation of strategic priorities, and worked with OHRC partners, stakeholders, government and community in matters of governance and strategy. Before this, she was the Manager of Client Services at the HRLSC where she directed a team in the provision of intake and application-stage legal services, a project which resulted in increasing the number of human rights applicants who are represented by the HRLSC at mediations and in significant and sustained increases in the number of cases settled by the HRLSC. Prior to joining the HRLSC in 2009, Janina practiced union-side labour and employment law in Toronto. A graduate of McGill University and the University of Toronto, Janina has worked with the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), Human Rights Watch, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Mustafa Farooq
Executive Director, National Council of Canadian Muslims

Mustafa Farooq is Executive Director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). A lawyer by profession, Mustafa completed his Juris Doctor at the University of Alberta and Osgoode Hall (York University) and later earned his Master of Laws (LLM) at UC Berkeley in California. He previously served as a senior political staffer to a provincial cabinet minister, in which role, he worked on various legislative and policy initiatives.

Mustafa was also a visiting scholar at Osgoode Hall Law School researching countering violent extremism policy in Canada. His book entitled Law, Politics, and Countering Violent Extremism (Routledge) is forthcoming.

He is a published writer and commentator in various news media and publications on issues related to Canadian Muslims, human rights and civil liberties, and public policy issues including Islamophobia and national security.

Kenneth Hale
Director of Advocacy and Legal Services, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)

Kenneth Hale is a lawyer and the Legal Director of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO). His work there focuses on law reform, training and test cases on behalf of low-income residential tenants. He was the Lawyer-Director of South Etobicoke Community Legal Services for over 20 years before moving to ACTO in 2008. His commitment to human rights arises from helping clients and communities to overcome the impact of poverty and housing insecurity, and seeing the barriers to success faced by members of equality-seeking groups.

Ian Hamilton
Executive Director, Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education

As Executive Director of Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education, Ian helps set the strategic directions and oversee the work of a team of 40 staff. This team designs and delivers innovative human rights education programs across Canada and overseas, which empower learners, particularly children and youth, to become leaders for social change in their communities. Before joining Equitas in 1997, Ian worked with Rights and Democracy and then spent almost two years in Thailand assisting their campaign to establish a National Human Rights Commission. Ian grew up in Toronto and graduated from University of Toronto in 1990 with a Bachelor’s Degree in History.

Kelly Hannah-Moffat
Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, University of Toronto

As the University of Toronto’s Vice President, Human Resources & Equity, Professor Kelly Hannah-Moffat is responsible for employment and labour relations with 22 unions and three staff associations, salary and benefits negotiations with the Faculty Association, as well as addressing risks associated with collective agreement negotiations, mediations, grievances and work stoppages. She creates and implements policies that reflect the University's commitment to equity and diversity for students, faculty and staff. She is the Crisis Manager for the University, the Co-Chair for the High Risk Committee and is part of the Institutional On-Call Executive system.

Professor Hannah-Moffat is responsible for the Personal Safety, High Risk, Sexual Violence Prevention and Support team and assisted in the development of the new Sexual Violence Policy. She is a Full Professor in Criminology, and her research has made important contributions to criminology, sociology, and legal issues. Her interdisciplinary research on criminal records disclosures, risk, punishment, and marginalized and diverse populations has contributed to the advancement of knowledge in sociology, criminology, law and social justice, and penal history. Her work has had concrete implications for social and criminal justice policy change, institutional/legal reform and institutional risk meeting practices.

Dakota Heon
Meeting Co-chair, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres – Indigenous Youth Council

Aanii, Wachey, Sago, and Hello. My name is Dakota Heon and I was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, but now reside in North Bay, Ontario. I am an Indigenous student currently enrolled at Nipissing University and am completing a Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare and Development with a Social Services Work Diploma.

Outside of being a student, I also do quite a bit of volunteer work. Some of this work includes sitting on the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres’ Indigenous Youth Council. My current position is the meeting co-chair and my previous position was the Northeast Regional Youth Representative.

Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan
Training Consultant

Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan has over 10 years’ experience designing, leading and implementing educational initiatives for youth and adult learners on disability, ableism and accessibility, human rights, leadership development, anti-oppression and Islamophobia. 

Raihanna holds a degree in Law, a Master of Science in Business & IT, a Master of Arts in Critical Disability Studies and is a LLM Canadian Common Law candidate at Osgoode Law School. 

In her former role as Accessibility Officer at McMaster University’s Equity and Inclusion Office, Raihanna managed the University’s compliance obligations with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). She also co-led a campus-wide initiative on Challenging Islamophobia on Campus that sought to identify and acknowledge everyday forms of racism and islamophobia with a view to creating support mechanisms on campus for staff, students and faculty. 

Raihanna is passionate about supporting the development of women and youth. She lives in Mississauga, Ontario and is currently a homeschooling mom. 

Carl James
Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, York University

Dr. Carl James is the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora in the Faculty of Education, and cross-appointed to the Graduate Programs in Sociology, Social Work, and Social and Political Thought at York University. In his role as Chair, he gives particular attention to issues of Black and other racialized people using a framework of equity, inclusivity, and social justice; and in the process seeks to foster university-school-community-government partnerships.

A former youth and community worker, James is widely recognized for his work with racialized communities; and nationally and internationally, for his scholarship and research pertaining to equity and access to opportunities in terms of race, class, gender, racialization, immigration and citizenship. On an international level, James has worked with teacher educators, teachers and teacher-candidates at Uppsala University, Sweden (1997 to 2013). In addition to his many community awards, James also holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Uppsala University for his contribution to social equity and anti-racism education; and is an elected Fellow in the Royal Society of Canada.

Dr. Salha Jeizan, EdD.
Chair, MIAG – Centre for Diverse Women and Families

Dr. Salha Jeizan is an educator, community leader and activist who works and volunteers with grassroots organizations, advocating for women and youth. She is committed to raising awareness of issues facing diverse comminutes. Salha is a professor with Sheridan College and Adjunct Faculty at Capella University. She has served on many boards and is the chair of MIAG – Centre for Diverse Women and Families, immediate past president of The Federation of Muslim Women, a committee member on Parent Involvement Committee of the Peel District School Board (PDSB), Muslim Advisory Committee of Peel Regional Police, and founder of Umoja Women’s Association.

April Julian
Director of Education, Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust

April Julian joined the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and Education Trust (CCLET) in 2009. She became Deputy Director of Education in 2014, and Director in 2016. An Ontario Certified Teacher, April is responsible for developing and delivering CCLET’s various education initiatives in Ontario and beyond. With the help of her colleagues at CCLA/CCLET, April delivers civil liberties programming to nearly 10,000 learners each year – including elementary and high school students, pre-service and in-service teachers, newcomers to Canada, and youth in custody. In her work, April strives to encourage a deeper understanding and respect for the rights and freedoms of everyone in Canada.

Farrah Khan
Manager, Consent Comes First – Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University

Farrah Khan has spent two decades working diligently to raise awareness about the connection between equity and gender-based violence. She was named co-chair of Ontario’s first permanent provincial roundtable on Violence Against Women and the Federal Strategy Against Gender-based Violence Advisory Council. She conducts training across North America on gender justice, sexual violence, forced marriage and consent. Farrah is co-founder of innovative community projects including Use the Right Words: Media Reporting on Sexual Violence, Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project, and is a regular contributor to major news media outlets. She is the Manager of Consent Comes First, Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University, where she works with community members affected by sexual violence, creates educational programming and aids in shaping campus policy and procedures. Farrah has received many awards, including the Toronto Community Foundation Vital People Award and a Women Who Inspire award from Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

Saleha Khan
Organizational Development Specialist – Diversity & Inclusion, City of London

Saleha J. Khan is a human rights and social justice activist and educator with more than 15 years of experience in training with law enforcement and the public service sector, working with diverse communities in Ontario, Canada and abroad. Saleha’s areas of expertise include social justice, human rights and responsibilities, hate crimes, and the settlement sector’s challenges and opportunities with the new Canadians. She has worked in the human capital, equity and inclusion field for more than 15 years, She is involved in volunteer efforts in empowering women and members of immigrant and racialized communities, regarding family and partner abuse. Saleha is the co-founder of the Family Honour Project, housed out of London, Ontario, She is also a charter member of the London Chapter for Sorpotimist International. Saleha received the Canadian Council of Muslim Women’s Women who Inspire Award for 2015.

She is currently employed as the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist with the City of London, Ontario. Saleha can be reached via LinkedIn.

Anita Khanna
National Director, Public Policy and Government Relations United Way Centraide Canada

Anita Khanna works at Family Service Toronto as National Coordinator, Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty in Canada and Director of Social Action and Community Building. Anita is an advocate for social justice and equity whose work is driven by anti-racist, anti-oppressive analysis. She was Executive Director of the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) and City-Wide organizer at Social Planning Toronto. Anita’s work and activist experience spans legal, gender-based violence, migrant justice and youth advocacy issues. Please tag @campaign2000 on twitter and on Facebook.

Raja Khouri
President, Canadian Arab Institute

Raja Khouri is president of the Canadian Arab Institute, a policy think tank he co-founded in 2011. Raja is co-founder of the Canadian Arab/Jewish Leadership Dialogue Group, and an international consultant in organizational development and capacity building. Raja formerly served on several government and civil society bodies, such as Ontario’s Hate Crimes Community Working Group (for the Attorney General and Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services), the Minister of Education’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy Roundtable, the Pride Toronto Community Advisory Panel, the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, and as advocacy co-chair of Human Rights Watch Canada. He served as president of the Canadian Arab Federation in the period following the events of 9/11.

Raja’s earlier career included a senior management position at CIBC and management consulting tenures in Europe and the Middle East. He has designed and chaired conferences, given and moderated lectures, many media interviews, and published commentaries in journals and major Canadian dailies. He’s the author of Arabs in Canada: Post 9/11. Raja served as a Commissioner with the OHRC from 2006 to 2016.

Lori Kleinsmith
Health Promoter, Bridges Community Health Centre

Lori Kleinsmith has worked as a Health Promoter at Bridges Community Health Centre since 2009. Lori is a passionate social justice and health equity advocate and has been an active member of the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network for several years. She is the current chair of the Niagara Dental Health Coalition and co-chair of the City of Port Colborne’s Social Determinants of Health Committee of Council. Follow Lori on Twitter at @LoriKleinsmith.

Shalini Konanur
Executive Director, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario

Shalini Konanur is the Executive Director and a lawyer at the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO). As a student at Osgoode Hall Law School Shalini worked at both Parkdale Community Legal Services and CLASP in the worker’s rights division. Shalini has been actively involved in several areas of poverty law reform, including lobbying at the municipal, provincial and federal level for social assistance, housing, immigration, employment and family violence reform. Shalini has also spearheaded SALCO`s test case work, challenging issues of racial, gender and religious discrimination at the Supreme Court of Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. Shalini’s work focuses on the promotion of access to justice for racialized communities in Canada and on addressing poverty for SALCO’s low-income constituency.

Robert Lattanzio
Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law

Roberto Lattanzio is the Executive Director of ARCH Disability Law Centre. He joined ARCH as an articling student in 2003 and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 2004. Robert received his LL.B and B.C.L. law degrees from McGill University in 2003 with distinction, and received his B.A. from Concordia University in 1999 with honours. He has acted as counsel in test case litigation at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and has made law reform submissions to various levels of government, committees and administrative bodies. Robert has presented and written on topics such as equality and human rights law, administrative law, education law, legislative reform, and social science evidence. Robert has a long-standing interest in disability issues and worked extensively with disability communities prior to attending law school.

Elizabeth McIsaac
President, Maytree Foundation

Elizabeth McIsaac is the president of Maytree, an organization committed to exploring solutions to poverty in Canada using a human rights approach. She has a deep history with Maytree; she previously served as the Director of Policy and was the executive director of one of Maytree’s signature ideas: the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC). Elizabeth is also a dedicated champion of the non-profit sector, having most recently established and led a research hub at the Mowat Centre focused on public policy and the sector.

Fallon Melander
Manager, Indigenous Relations, Metrolinx

Fallon Melander is Anishinaabe, a mother, a wife, a travel enthusiast and a member of Wikwemikoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. She completed her B.A. at the University of Western Ontario and her LL.B. at the University of Ottawa. She is Policy Counsel for Legal Aid Ontario leading the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, and is a member of the Indigenous Bar Association.

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
Director, Equality Program, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv joined CCLA in 2002 as a legal researcher. Since 2005 she has directed CCLA’s Expression and Equality programs. Noa has been published, made submissions, appearances and presentations, and advocated on such issues as refugee protection, LGBTQ rights, racial profiling, freedom of expression and religion, and the intersectionality of rights, in particular religious freedom and equality. Noa has coordinated many CCLA interventions in a variety of Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and human rights tribunals; appeared before Parliamentary and provincial legislative committees, governmental and public bodies; and provided written submissions. She has also appeared on panels, at conferences, in press interviews, and provided guest workshops and lessons through CCLET’s public education project. In addition, Noa manages CCLA’s law student volunteer programs.

Noa has an LL.B. and LL.M. from the Hebrew University in Israel, and a B.A. (with distinction) from York University. She completed her legal articles at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and was called to the Israeli Bar in 1998. She worked for a few years as an associate at a private law firm in Jerusalem, practicing litigation, labour, commercial and corporate law. Noa has also served as Field Coordinator for a large research project on eating disorders in women, and as Acting Administrative Director of Hebrew University Law Faculty’s Center for Human Rights.

Juliette Nicolet
Policy Director, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres

Juliette Nicolet is the Policy Director at the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, a position she has held for 11 years.  Prior to that she articled then served as counsel for three years at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. She holds an MA in Political Science from the University of Toronto and obtained both her LLB and her BCL at McGill University.

Juliette supervises a unit of eight policy analysts covering a range of subject areas related to advancing public policy supportive of Friendship Centres at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. In her work vis-à-vis the provincial government, Juliette sits on various urban Indigenous technical tables with ministries across the provincial government. 

Juliette has worked consistently to make the connection between government policy and people's lives on the ground, in order to inform policy development in a coherent and constructive way, with the resulting landscape facilitating the creation of programs and services that achieve real outcomes for real people. She has extensive relationships and experience with Friendship Centres and has substantially supported their capacity for local engagement and service delivery as community hubs in the urban Indigenous community.

Kike Ojo
Principal Consultant, Kojo Institute

Kike Ojo is the Project Manager for One Vision One Voice: Changing the Child Welfare System for African Canadian Families, a community-led project facilitated by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Kike has worked in the field of child welfare in Ontario for over 10 years, advancing an equity agenda to address services to all marginalized people. Prior to her child welfare career, Kike worked within multiple social service sectors and within communities in the US and Canada, and has presented many keynotes, guest lectures and workshops.

Kike’s work and volunteer efforts earned her the Lincoln M. Alexander Community Award for extraordinary leadership in eliminating racial discrimination in Ontario, and several other awards and recognitions. Over the past two years, Kike has been featured in the Toronto Star, on The Agenda with Steve Paikin (TVO), CBC News, and CBC Radio across Ontario.

Kike’s formal education includes a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in International Justice and Human Rights from McMaster University, a Master of Arts in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Education, University of Toronto. Additionally Kike is a certified Alternative Dispute Resolution mediator.

Paula Osmok
Executive Director, John Howard Society of Ontario

Paula Osmok is the Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Ontario, a position she has held since 2002. During this time, she established the Centre of Research and Policy, and through its team of professional researchers, policy analysts and evaluators, has engaged in leading-edge research and policy work, making significant contributions to social and criminal justice literature and program development in Ontario. She was elected for four successive terms as a public school trustee in her local community, serving as Chair of the Board and of many committees.

She has presented at many conferences and training sessions on a range of criminal and social justice topics including the importance of human rights in carceral settings. A special focus is required for carceral settings because prisons are environments where human rights can be most easily disregarded.

Paula holds an MSc, in Criminal Justice Studies from the University of Leicester in the UK.

Pam Palmater
Chair in Indigenous Governance, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University

Pam Palmater is a Mi’kmaw citizen and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation. She’s been a practicing lawyer for 18 years and holds the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. Pam is an activist and was one of the spokespeople and educators for the Idle No More movement. She is a well-known public speaker often called before Parliamentary and United Nations committees as an expert on Indigenous rights.

Twitter: @Pam_Palmater
Facebook: Pam Palmater
LinkedIn: Dr. Pam Palmater
Instagram: Pam_Palmater

Jessica Reekie, B.A. LL.B.
Executive Director, Ontario Justice Education Network

Jess Reekie is the Executive Director of the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), a charitable not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that develops innovative educational tools that introduce young people to the justice system, help them understand the law, and build their legal capability (

A graduate of Harvard University and Dalhousie Law School, Jess practiced immigration and refugee law before she began working in the field of public legal education. She joined OJEN in 2008, first as a Program Manager developing public legal education programs and resources for newcomer youth, later becoming Director of Programs where she oversaw all of OJEN’s justice education work with vulnerable and marginalized youth. In 2014, she became OJEN’s Executive Director. Jess also serves as a Board Member for the Public Legal Education Association of Canada (PLEAC).

Cecil Roach
Coordinating Superintendent, Equity and Community Services, York Region District School Board

In his 33-year career as an educator, Cecil Roach has had the opportunity to have a very profound impact on the lives of young people. He has done this as a classroom teacher, school administrator, and now Coordinating Superintendent.

Born on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat (now sadly devastated by a continuously erupting volcano) and arriving in Canada in his early teens, Cecil completed most of his schooling in Montreal where he graduated from Marymount High School, Vanier College CEGEP, and Concordia and McGill Universities. He maintains that his time as one of the “barrel children” (children whose parents left them behind with a grandparent while they prepared for their reunion in Canada) has given him special insight into the dynamics of immigration and its effect on student achievement and well-being. This experience has also strengthened Mr. Roach’s belief that schools are places where students, regardless of their social identities, can expand dreams on their journey towards full participation in Canadian society.

Cecil taught English for 16 years in Quebec at Chambly County High School and Centennial Regional High School and in Ontario at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute before becoming an administrator in 1995. He is currently serving as Coordinating Superintendent, Equity and Community Services for the York Region District School Board.

Paul Robitaille
Chair, Métis Nation of Ontario Youth Council

Paul Robitaille is a Métis graduate student and community organizer, with a strong passion for youth empowerment and cultural revitalization. Paul’s academic and professional work seeks to promote greater understanding and collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples through creating opportunities for respectful cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge exchange. Paul is excited to join the Community Advisory Group and to collectively work towards building a more inclusive, equitable and barrier-free Ontario for all Ontarians.

Nancy Rowe
Elder, Traditional Teacher

Giidaakunadaad (The Spirit Who Lives in High Places) n’dizhinikaaz (is my name): Nancy Rowe is a Mississauga, Ojibwe of the Anishinaabek Nation located at New Credit First Nation, Ontario. Nancy holds an honors BA in Indigenous Studies and Political Science. She is an educator, consultant and a Traditional Practitioner of Anishinaabek lifeways, views and customary practices, and is currently completing a Master’s degree of Environmental Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo.

She is an avid volunteer who coordinates Akinomaagaye Gaamik, a grassroots initiative to provide educational opportunities for all peoples interested in Indigenous perspectives of life, health, education, history and the environment. “Education is the doorway through which we all can create a common ground and understanding of not only Indigenous Peoples but also, and more importantly, our environment.”

Balpreet Singh
Legal Counsel, World Sikh Organization of Canada

Balpreet Singh received his law degree from the University of Ottawa. After articling with a boutique disability and human rights law firm in Toronto, he became legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization of Canada in 2009.

His practice focuses on human rights law and religious accommodation. Balpreet Singh has helped resolve several key accommodation issues for Sikhs in Canada, including accommodation for the wearing of the kirpan in courthouses in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, on VIA Rail trains, as well as in Canadian embassies and consulates internationally.

Balpreet Singh has worked with various public and private sector organizations to create resources and provide training on religious accommodation issues and best practices when interacting with persons of the Sikh faith.  He currently also serves as a director for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.  

Catherine Soplet

Catherine Soplet joins the OHRC Community Advisory Group with a musician’s insight and results since 2007 on complex issues of education and poverty. Her 2017 collaborations in a new role as Executive Director (Acting) for NabrHUBS INC. intend to gauge impact of parent mentoring on student tutoring. Since joining the Peel Poverty Action Group and Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2010, Catherine’s mantra, “Schools anchor neighbourhoods, attract talent and build prosperity,” has been taken to every level of government

Chantal Tie
Lawyer, Human Rights Legal Support Centre

Chantal Tie is an advocate, litigator and educator, dedicated to social justice and the defense of human rights. She wrote her LLM thesis on discrimination in Canadian immigration, and the same interest in the rights of immigrants, women and marginalized groups drives her advocacy and litigation work. She was awarded the Law Society Medal from the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2015, in recognition of her social justice work.

She has represented individuals and organizations in rights-based litigation at all court levels, including among others, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), Elizabeth Fry Society, Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) and Amnesty International.

Called to the Bar in 1982, her interest in social justice extends beyond Canada, having worked for the Canadian Bar Association on justice projects in Bangladesh and China. She currently volunteers on collaborative projects with The Equality Effect, including a successful constitutional challenge in Kenya on behalf of 160 girl victims of rape and a challenge to the requirement for corroboration in rape in Malawi.

Chantal was Chair of the Court Challenges Program of Canada, Co-chair of LEAF’s litigation committee and CCR’s Inland Protection Working Group and is now on the Executive of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, co-chairing the litigation committee. For 21 years, she was Executive Director of South Ottawa Community Legal Services and is now counsel at the Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre. She teaches Immigration and Refugee Law at the University of Ottawa.

Jessica Wolfe
Duty Counsel, Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto

Jessica Wolfe is Anishinaabe from Brunswick House First Nation, and mother of two children, Meghan and Ruby. A recovering social worker, she graduated from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law in 2006 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2007. Jessica worked for 10 years as Criminal Duty Counsel at Old City Hall Courthouse in Toronto, and specifically in the Gladue Courts representing Indigenous persons in conflict with the settler criminal justice system. She recently accepted the Senior Staff Lawyer position at Aboriginal Legal Services, a legal clinic that provides legal services to low-income Indigenous persons in the areas of human rights and poverty law, and engages in law reform activities, community organizing, public legal organizing, test-case litigation, coroner’s inquests, public inquiries, and interventions at all levels of court including the Supreme Court of Canada.

Together as one: 2018 community engagement report



Engagement between summits

The second annual summit

What we heard

A. Environmental factors

Marginalization of human rights

Cultivating public support for human rights

B. Feedback on current OHRC initiatives


Criminal Justice



C. Evaluation


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The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) recognizes that a strategic, meaningful, consistent, accessible and sustainable approach to stakeholder engagement strengthens its mandate to promote and enforce Ontario’s Human Rights Code (Code).

In 2017, the OHRC established a new Community Advisory Group (CAG) under section 31.5 of the Code. In 2018, the OHRC approved a new Community Engagement Strategy, Communities for change, and released the Strategy along with its 2017 Inaugural Community Advisory Group Summit Report. The OHRC remains committed to the core activities outlined in Communities for change.

This report offers highlights of our engagements with CAG members throughout the year, including during our second annual CAG summit.

Engagement between summits

Between the 2017 and 2018 summits, the OHRC reached out regularly to seek input or involve various CAG members in many activities including:

  • The OHRC’s Indigenous dialogue event and To dream together report (CAG members sat on the organizing panel that guided all aspects of planning and implementation and reviewed the final report; members also presented and shared their wisdom and reflections during the three-day event)
  • Focus groups on racial profiling in policing (CAG members identified possible law enforcement participants and organized focus groups with Indigenous community members)
  • OHRC Commissioner and staff training focusing on poverty (CAG members took part as panelists and recommended speakers with lived experience as well as opportunities for experiential learning)
  • Inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service (several CAG members were invited to attend a meeting to update Black community leaders about progress on the inquiry and to attend the launch
    of the interim report, A collective impact)
  • The Jahn consent order on the use of solitary confinement in provincial corrections (a CAG member was recommended and approved for the role of Independent Expert under the terms of the order)
  • The Gallant case on the use of Indigenous-themed mascots (a CAG member provided expert testimony during the hearing, and CAG members reviewed and helped disseminate a letter to 40 municipalities about the harmful impact of Indigenous-themed sports logos)
  • Youth engagement (CAG members assisted with recruiting and organizing focus groups to get youth input on human rights education and racial profiling).

The OHRC regularly informed CAG members of ongoing initiatives and activities, including holding a briefing session for members before releasing a new OHRC Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities in August 2018. The OHRC also sought and secured CAG member endorsements for several key submissions and recommendations, including the OHRC’s submission to the Independent Street Checks Review and recommendations to improve education outcomes for students with disabilities.  

Mid-year, the OHRC surveyed CAG members on what they were most concerned about in the current environment, and  strategies the OHRC and CAG members might adopt to address these concerns. CAG members discussed these and other issues during the second annual summit, summarized below.

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The second annual summit

The OHRC held its second annual CAG summit from November 19 to 21, 2018. The summit theme was Ne-maam-mweh, an Ojibwe term that means, “we are all together as one.”

Twenty-eight CAG members representing diverse communities took part in the summit. OHRC Commissioners and senior managers also attended. All OHRC staff took part in the opening session and many staff attended all or some of the summit. Unfortunately, some CAG members from outside the greater Toronto area were not able to attend because of government restrictions on reimbursements for travel expenses, while other members attended without seeking reimbursement for related expenses. Indigenous members and members from organizations with smaller budgets were particularly affected, significantly limiting both the diversity and geographic reach of the voices heard. 

At the outset, Nancy Rowe, a traditional knowledge-keeper from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, welcomed participants to the territory, shared a teaching and led a smudge. Assistant Deputy Attorney General Irwin Glasberg offered words of welcome and recognized the importance of the CAG in connecting the OHRC to realities on the ground.

In her welcome to CAG members, OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane spoke about the significance of the summit theme “Ne-maam-mweh/We are all together as one.” She commented that it reflects the universality of human rights, the power of working in solidarity, and the opportunity that coming together offers for learning from and encouraging one another. She talked about the summit’s goal to bring the OHRC and CAG members together to share and discuss experiences, concerns and ways to advance the protection and promotion of human rights. She hoped that participants would leave with
a greater understanding of one another and a renewed commitment to walk forward together as one.

The summit program was designed together with CAG members with specific input sought from First Nations and Métis members (see the Appendix for the full agenda).

The event began with two optional education sessions. First, OHRC staff delivered a primer on human rights and systemic discrimination. Next, staff from the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) delivered a session based on its full-day Indigenous Cultural Competency Training. Nineteen CAG members attended these optional sessions.

OHRC staff helped to facilitate circles, presentations and small and large group discussions to ensure CAG members had an opportunity for meaningful participation and engagement. Knowledge-keeper Nancy Rowe provided guidance, teachings and reflections throughout the three days.

The summit provided opportunities for both in-person and online networking. CAG members were encouraged to continue their conversations on social media using the hashtag #OHRCommunity.

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What we heard

A. Environmental factors

With a view to identifying environmental factors and critical and emerging issues, CAG members shared what they were most concerned about in the current environment.

They also identified strategies that the OHRC and members might adopt to address these concerns. Several main themes emerged, including:

Marginalization of human rights  

CAG members noted the rise in extremism and the amplification of hate activity, both online and in communities across the province. Members observed that the politics of division and the notion of “otherness” are leading communities to look inward and adopt knee-jerk strategies to protect themselves, like devaluing and attacking others. Members further noted that many hate incidents and incidents of racism and discrimination are not reported.

Members were concerned about the increased marginalization of the rights of Indigenous peoples, including ongoing inequitable access to justice and education for Indigenous peoples in the north. They were troubled by the cancellation of writing sessions involving Indigenous community partners in developing the Indigenous curriculum. They were
also disappointed that the government is still not using the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration) as the framework for addressing human rights issues affecting Indigenous communities.

Members noted the intensification of attacks and devaluation of organizations that promote human rights. They further observed an increase in public discourse framing human rights activities as political, rather than non-partisan work to protect and promote long-standing universal norms codified in law.

Members worried that cuts to public-sector spending could result in the inability of government agencies to deliver positive social outcomes. Members observed that decreases in funding for community programs and social services would have the biggest impact on people with limited voice and power. This includes people experiencing poverty and homelessness, children and youth, people with disabilities and people in conflict with the law, many of whom are unaware of their rights.

“Thank you @OntHumanRights for the opportunity to speak about the work of @CanadianLabour & our Anti-Islamophobia Initiative. #Islamophobia follows Muslims to work. Let’s collaborate & dismantle religious discrimination to make workplaces safe for all. #canlab #OHRCommunity”

Mojdeh Cox‏ @MojdehCox

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Cultivating public support for human rights

CAG members identified the need to increase and foster support for human rights among the broader public, noting that this will involve reaching people who are open to changing their minds. While recognizing the need to safeguard spaces for continued dialogue about unique identities, members spoke of the importance of finding ways to ensure that messages about human rights are accessible to people from various backgrounds across the province.

Members emphasized how hearing personal stories of lived experience can effectively shed light on the reality of human rights violations. They noted the importance of identifying and leveraging allies, and of using social media strategically to reach a broader audience. Members also stressed the need to ensure that the human rights message reaches children and youth by fostering a culture of human rights through the education system.

Finally, members recognized that while they each have their own part to play in building support for human rights, there is value in finding ways to work together.

“#InclusionMeans putting people and their #HumanRights at the centre. @Peel_Poverty put #PeelYouthCharter /#DICharter /#WithYouPeel values expressed @OntHumanRights at the centre of its #TheoryOfChange 2018-2028 Peel #Poverty Reduction Strategy #OHRcommunity #PovertyFreePeel”

Catherine Soplet‏ @Soplet

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B. Feedback on current OHRC initiatives

CAG members were asked to provide feedback and advice on specific OHRC initiatives in each of its four strategic focus areas – Reconciliation, Criminal justice, Poverty and Education.


In February 2018, the OHRC brought together diverse Indigenous people and members of the human rights community to take part in a dialogue to discuss a vision of human rights that reflects Indigenous perspectives, world views and issues. A key theme, reflected in the OHRC’s To Dream Together dialogue report, was the critical role of the UN Declaration in understanding, interpreting and implementing the human rights of Indigenous peoples.

In response, the OHRC developed a strategy to ensure that the Code is interpreted in
a way that gives effect to the UN Declaration. CAG members provided feedback on the development of this strategy.

Members suggested that the strategy include activities to raise awareness about the UN Declaration among both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. They also felt that
a particular focus should be placed on women’s rights, including the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.  

CAG members noted that any advisory group supporting the strategy will have an important role as a bridge or translator between diverse Indigenous cultures and legal conceptions of human rights. They recommended that the group include perspectives of First Nations (on- and off-reserve), Inuit and Métis peoples, and representation from across the province, including the north. Members further emphasized the importance of seeking guidance from grandmother circles and other Elders, noting that that this will require travel to communities.  

Members advised that engagements should include meetings with both representative groups and people with lived experience. They stressed the value that Indigenous people place on hearing directly from the grassroots and the likelihood that different issues would be raised at each gathering.

The OHRC has been guided by CAG member advice when forming an Advisory Group for the UN Declaration strategy. In addition, CAG member suggestions on educational activities, focus issues and the nature and scope of engagements with Indigenous communities will be brought to the attention of the UN Declaration Advisory Group for their consideration.

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Criminal Justice

In its Strategic Plan, the OHRC commits to working towards ending racial profiling in policing. The OHRC is developing detailed policy guidance on steps to prevent and address racial profiling in the area of policing and law enforcement.

CAG members were asked if they had any experience or knowledge of resources related to two issues being considered for inclusion in the policy guidelines: under-policing as a type of racial discrimination experienced by Indigenous people and racialized people living in certain neighbourhoods, and the use of artificial intelligence to augment or replace human judgment in policing. In addition, CAG members were asked for ideas on how to promote the guidelines, including target audiences, techniques and collaborations.

On the issue of under-policing, the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres reported it is conducting a focus group with Indigenous community members to learn more about lived experiences. CAG members suggested that inquiries into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls would shed more light on their experience of under-policing. Members also noted that the Human Rights Legal Support Centre and specialty legal clinics might be able to share some information about accounts of under-policing without breaching confidentiality. Members further suggested examining data on police response times, closed cases and complaints made to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, to identify whether there are trends for particular communities.

On the potential use of artificial intelligence, members indicated that the John Howard Society may have looked at the issue in the context of parole or bail conditions. They did not know of any other research being conducted in Canada, but knew of the work of Simone Browne in the United States.

CAG members also said that promotion efforts should focus
on raising awareness among both police officers and policing organizations, as well as community members affected

by racial profiling and their allies. To reach police audiences, members suggested seeking endorsements from police associations, attending police conferences and reaching out
to allies in police services across the province to identify approaches that might be effective.

CAG members recommended that training would be an effective way to reach affected communities by empowering people to understand their rights and take action. Infographics and videos were suggested as formats that would allow community members to access information quickly with maximum impact. Finally, members suggested law and criminology professors and students, ethnocultural lawyers’ associations and legal clinics as possible allies in advancing change.

CAG member suggestions have guided OHRC research in the areas of under-policing and the use of artificial intelligence. In addition, the OHRC will consider member advice on awareness-raising and training when developing plans for communicating and promoting policy guidance.

“What a great experience! Yes, please do check out our work: and … Thank you @OntHumanRights @RenuMandhane and #OHRCommunity

JohnHowardSociety @ReducingCrime

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In its Strategic Plan, the OHRC states that it will “[a]dvance the field of human rights law by making clear how systemic discrimination causes and sustains poverty, and addressing poverty within a human rights framework.” CAG members were asked to identify activities that the OHRC could engage in to ensure that “Freedom from poverty is recognized and experienced as a fundamental human right in Ontario.”    

CAG members proposed several actions related to municipal and provincial poverty reduction strategies. They suggested that the OHRC call for reframing the strategies using
a rights-based approach. They also recommended that the OHRC monitor progress in meeting existing indicators and consider developing its own rights-based indicators.  

Members recommended that the OHRC act to make sure people living in poverty know about their rights. They suggested developing plain-language documents and other education products to promote understanding about the commitments government
has made by ratifying international human rights instruments.

Members suggested that the OHRC could shine a light on the personal and social impacts of poverty by facilitating a safe space for people with lived experience of poverty to tell their stories. Members noted that the initiative could be modeled on Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission that brings together people living in poverty and key decision-makers
to work towards overcoming poverty.

Finally, some CAG members discussed whether the OHRC should seek to intervene in litigation related to residents being displaced from the Heron Gate rental community
in Ottawa. They commented that many of these residents are new immigrants and
low-income earners paying affordable rents, and are being displaced to make way for
the redevelopment of the property.

Over the past year, the OHRC has engaged in several activities that align with CAG members’ advice related to poverty. The OHRC made 44 recommendations in seven submissions to government calling for human rights protections involving, among other areas: social assistance reform, the supply of affordable housing, Canada's national housing strategy, Canada’s Third Universal Periodic Review, and pay transparency legislation. The OHRC also publicly supported legislation that would add “social condition” as a protected ground of discrimination.

This year, the OHRC expects to form an Advisory Group to guide its poverty work for
2019 and 2020. It plans to release a short background paper and begin public dialogue
on human rights and poverty. This will include amplifying the voices of people with lived experience of poverty and seeking opportunities for legal intervention.

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In its Strategic Plan, the OHRC states that it will “promote and strengthen a human rights culture in Ontario that encompasses both rights and responsibilities, with a special focus on educating children and youth....” The plan commits the OHRC to work towards making sure that “[h]uman rights are a regular part of children’s and youth’s education, including in the curriculum.” CAG members were asked to review the OHRC’s resource guide for educators, Teaching human rights in Ontario, and provide feedback on ways it could be improved.

Members suggested several content updates including:

  • Information about why the Human Rights Code was enacted
  • The scope of the prohibited grounds of discrimination
  • The process for bringing a claim (called an application) to the Human Rights
    Tribunal of Ontario (including the age restrictions)
  • The relationship between the Code and other human rights laws and instruments
    at the domestic and international levels (e.g. the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).

Members also suggested developing age-appropriate content for different grade levels and updating case law examples to reflect issues that youth face today. They recommended developing new role-play and other interactive exercises, including the use of music and drama. They also suggested developing digital methods of delivery such as videos and apps to complement the text.

Members suggested measures to increase the likelihood that the enhanced materials will be used in classrooms. Recognizing that teachers are under significant pressure to meet existing curriculum requirements, members recommended that the OHRC clearly identify in its resources how the content links to specific courses and learning expectations in the provincial curriculum. They advised that introducing the resource to teacher candidates at faculties of education and working with unions to reach current classroom teachers would help to increase their comfort with the material.

When developing new materials, members also suggested that the OHRC work with school board equity leads, teacher unions, curriculum writers and other organizations engaged in developing human rights education supports.

The OHRC is developing a plan to enhance and adapt Teaching human rights in Ontario to better serve the needs of today’s teachers and students. It is considering ways to incorporate CAG members’ suggestions on content updates, new delivery methods, and potential partners for resource development and promotion in this plan.

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C. Evaluation

Overall, CAG members were very satisfied with the quality and level of their engagement with the OHRC. Members appreciated receiving advance notice of major announcements and new products, as well as prompts for social media engagement. They emphasized the importance of the CAG continuing to meet in-person to foster effective information exchange and collaboration. However, they noted the need to find a way to support participant cost-recovery so that more members can attend from across the province.

Going forward, members encouraged the OHRC to make sure that it is capitalizing on the ability of CAG members to connect directly with people with lived experience and to include those voices in conversations. 

CAG members showed significant support for the value of the OHRC’s human rights work to communities, and the need to make sure that the work continues. They emphasized the importance of the OHRC continuing to have a presence across the province. They noted the need for the human rights message, as well as deeper human rights capacity-building, to reach communities outside Toronto. They stressed that, in some cases, in-person interactions will be necessary to achieve these goals in a meaningful way. It will be necessary to look at ways the OHRC can work with communities to make this happen. 

Over the course of the discussion, CAG members observed that while their work may focus on different issues, in different sectors and on behalf of different communities, they are united by the common aim of advancing human rights, equity and social justice. CAG members expressed an interest in looking at ways to continue to build networks of solidarity and to communicate their human rights message with each other and with others in a more coordinated way.

“So happy to be here this week at the OHRC Community Advisory Group Summit! Thank you @RenuMandhane & @OntHumanRights for engaging with us and collaborating with us to promote #HumanRights and #MentalHealth!”

UppalaC‏ @UppalaC

“Honoured to participate in the discussion, workshops and training sessions & grateful to the incredible team at @OntHumanRights for putting this Summit together #communitymeans #inclusionmeans #OHRCommunity”

(((ihsaan)))‏ @ihsaan

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Ne-maam-mweh / All of us together as one
2018 Community Advisory Group Summit


Education sessions: November 19, 2018

8:45 a.m.       Registration

9:00 a.m.       Opening/land acknowledgment

Human rights essentials – Rita Samson, OHRC

Systemic discrimination – Shaheen Azmi, OHRC

12:00 noon    Lunch break

1:00 p.m.       Rebuilding relationships and reconciliation – Lorena Garvey, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC)

4:00 p.m.       Reflections/debrief

– Nancy Rowe, Traditional Knowledge Keeper, Mississaugas of New Credit

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Day One: November 20, 2018

8:30 a.m.       Registration

9:00 a.m.       Opening/land acknowledgment

– Michael Harris, Master of Ceremonies, OHRC

Welcome to territory/Smudge (optional)

– Nancy Rowe, Traditional Knowledge Keeper, Mississaugas of New Credit

Chief Commissioner’s welcome – Renu Mandhane

Assistant Deputy Attorney General’s welcome – Irwin Glasberg

Participant introductions

10:15 a.m.     Morning break

10:30 a.m.     Review of CAG Summit report commitments and actions

– Renu Mandhane

10:45 a.m.     Environmental scan

– CAG members, Nancy Rowe, Renu Mandhane

11:55 a.m.     Group photograph

12:00 noon    Lunch break

1:15 p.m.       OHRC work: A year in review:

1:45 p.m.       CAG members’ questions and answers

2:20 p.m.       Afternoon break

CAG feedback on OHRC operational commitments

2:35 p.m.       Small group discussions

  • Reconciliation – Strategy to realize the vision of UN Declaration
    – Rita Samson, Darlene Kaboni                         [8th Floor Boardroom]
  • Criminal justice Racial profiling guidelines
    – Shaheen Azmi, Christopher Williams            [8th Floor Boardroom]
  • Poverty – Mapping exercise
    – Jagtaran Singh, Jeff Poirier, Reema Khawja         [9th Floor North Boardroom]
  • Education – Teaching human rights in Ontario
    Dora Nipp                                             [9th Floor South Boardroom]

3:50 p.m.       Report back – Everyone in 8th Floor Boardroom – Michael Harris

Reflections – Nancy Rowe

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Day Two: November 21, 2018

8:45 a.m.       Registration

9:00 a.m.       Welcome and introduction of new attendees – Michael Harris

9:15 a.m.       Jeopardy!

(on Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities)

10:15 a.m.     Morning break


Sharing CAG members’ work: Part one (Speakers appear in alphabetical order)

10:30 a.m.     1. Uppala Chandrasekera
                          Director of Public Policy, Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario

2. Jeewan Chanicka and Ken Jeffers
    Superintendent, Equity, Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression and Senior Manager,
    Equitable and Inclusive System Culture, Toronto District School Board

3. Lisa Cirillo
    Executive Director, Downtown Legal Services

4. Mojdeh Cox
    National Director of Anti-Racism and Human Rights, Canadian Labour Congress

5. Kenneth Hale
    Director of Advocacy and Legal Services, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario

12:00 noon    Lunch break

Sharing CAG members’ work: Part two (Speakers appear in alphabetical order)

1:15 p.m.       6.  Safiyah Husein
                            Policy Analyst, Centre of Research, Policy and Program Development, John Howard Society

7.  Robert Lattanzio
     Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre

8.  Elizabeth McIsaac
President, Maytree

9.  Juliette Nicolet
Policy Director, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres

10. Catherine Soplet
Peel Poverty Action Group

2:20 p.m.       Reflections – Nancy Rowe

2:30 p.m.       Afternoon break

2:45 p.m.       Discussion on ongoing role of CAG in the OHRC's community engagement strategy

– Introduction: Renu Mandhane

– Facilitator: Michael Harris

3:45 p.m.       Final comments, remarks – CAG members

4:15 p.m.       Closing reflections – Nancy Rowe

Closing remarks – Renu Mandhane

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