The Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC) has just released their annual report for 2009-2010. Mandated to provide legal services to people who have experienced discrimination and who want to take legal steps to address the discrimination by filing an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), HRLSC offers legal information on its website and legal information and advice by phone, and provides ongoing legal services to applicants before the HRTO. This includes representation at all stages of the human rights process: before an application is filed; before mediation; and before the hearing.
The report states that in 2009/10, HRLSC responded to 24,905 telephone and in-person inquiries from the public, providing summary legal assistance in respect of a possible human rights claim for 10,700 of these inquiries. Eight thousand, two hundred inquiries were requests for general information about rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and most of the remaining 5000 calls were unrelated to human rights.
HRLSC provided legal assistance in respect of a Tribunal application to 995 new clients. The breakdown on grounds of discrimination in these claims is as follows:
- 30% related to race, colour, ethnic origin, place of origin, ancestry and race-related creed
- 28% to disability
- 11% to sex, sexual harassment, gender
- 10% to pregnancy
- 10% to sexual orientation and gender identity
- 4% to family, marital status
- 3% age
- 2.5% to reprisal
- 0.5% to receipt of public assistance, and
- 0% to record of offenses
The report also states that the HRLSC continues to experience a high and increasing level of demand for its services, and that the HRLSC is concerned about its ability to provide an appropriate level of service. In 2009/10, HRLSC was only able to respond to 57 per cent of the almost 40,000 telephone inquiries to its intake lines. The report states that long wait times resulted in calls being abandoned before the inquiry line could be answered, and that HRLSC’s capacity to respond to the public falls far short of reasonable standards.
This report is relevant for the Ontario Human Rights Review currently underway. All Ontarians, especially individuals who have used the services of the HRLSC, HRTO, and Ontario Human Rights Commission, are encouraged to participate in the review process, through written submissions, through oral remarks at public meetings, and oral remarks at stakeholder meetings.
The deadline for written submissions is March 1, 2012. Public meetings are taking place across Ontario at the following locations: Windsor (February 13), London (February 14), Toronto (February 15 and 24), Ottawa (February 16), and Sudbury (February 21).
For more information about the Ontario Human Rights Review, visit www.ontariohumanrightsreview.org.
To access the 2009-2010 annual report of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, visit www.hrlsc.on.ca.