MOSAIC Hosts Private Meeting with Chief Commissioner of Ontario Human Rights Commission

On April 23, Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner for the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), paid a visit to MOSAIC and met with Eyob Naizghi, the executive leadership team and members of the board.The OHRC is part of Ontario’s system for human rights and is guided by the Ontario Human Rights Code, playing an important role in preventing discrimination and promoting and advancing human rights in Ontario.The 90-minute session at MOSAIC’s Grant Street office focused on the OHRC’s recent policy on removing the “Canadian experience” barrier for immigrants seeking employment. The high rates of unemployment and underemployment among recent immigrants has been identified by the commission as a major barrier to finding jobs which correspond with the education, skills and experience of new arrivals.While the OHRC recognizes there are multiple barriers faced by new immigrants in accessing the job market, their policy focuses on “Canadian experience” as an employment or accreditation requirement and as a practice that raises human rights concerns. The OHRC’s position is that a strict requirement for “Canadian experience” is prima facie discrimination (discrimination on its face) and can only be used in very limited circumstances.Based on the Ontario Human Rights Code, it is not legal for employers to discriminate on the basis of lack of Canadian experience. The onus is on employers and regulatory bodies to show that a requirement for prior work experience in Canada is a bona fide requirement. During the meeting, Ms. Hall explained that the Commission’s mandate is “to deal with systemic issues” and that they are working with employers, organizations and regulatory bodies to effect change.British Columbia does not have a Human Rights Commission.Eyob Naizghi, MOSAIC Executive Director, said “The importance of the meeting was not only learning about Ontario and what they have done, but reflect what MOSAIC can do, in collaboration with others or solely, in BC, to engage the public, policy makers, employers and other key stakeholders such as the regulatory bodies on this issue. Based on the experience Ms. Hall shared with us from Ontario, there are a number of possibilities that MOSAIC can look into in greater detail to address the issue of ‘Canadian experience’ barriers.”Barbara Hall was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission on November 28, 2005, after more than 30 years as a community worker, lawyer and municipal politician. She served three terms as a city councillor from 1985 on and as Toronto’s mayor from 1994 to 1997. From 1998 to 2002 she headed the federal government’s National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention.Ms. Hall has also practised criminal and family law, been a member of the Ontario Health Ministry’s Health Results Team, and lectured nationally and internationally on urban and social issues. She has extensive experience on non-profit boards and committees, and has a strong record of bringing diverse groups together to build safe and strong communities.For more information about the OHRC, visit their website at www.ohrc.on.ca.