Policy on Competing Human Rights

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Summary

As people better understand their rights and wish to exercise them, some of those
rights may come into conflict with the rights of others. This is especially true in Ontario’s
increasingly diverse and complex society. Conflicts can begin when an individual or
group tries to enjoy or exercise a right, interest or value in an organizational context
(e.g. in schools, employment, housing, etc.). At times, these claims may be in conflict,
or may appear to be in conflict with other claims. Depending on the circumstances, for
example, the right to be free from discrimination based on creed or sexual orientation
or gender may be at odds with each other or with other rights, laws and practices. Can
a religious employer require an employee to sign a “morality pledge” not to engage in
certain sexual activity? Can an accuser testify wearing a niqab (a face veil worn by
some for religious reasons) at the criminal trial of her accused? How do you resolve a
situation where a professor’s guide dog causes a severe allergic reaction in a student?
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provincial human rights legislation
(including the Ontario Human Rights Code) and the courts recognize that no rights are
absolute and no one right is more important than another right. Our laws guarantee
rights such as freedom of expression as well as protection against discrimination and
harassment based on gender, creed, sexual orientation and disability, among other
grounds. They require we give all rights equal consideration. The law also recognizes
that rights have limits in some situations where they substantially interfere with the
rights of others.
The courts have said we must go through a process on a case-by-case basis to search
for solutions to reconcile competing rights and accommodate individuals and groups, if
possible. This search can be challenging, controversial, and sometimes dissatisfying to
one side or the other. But it is a shared responsibility and made easier when we better
understand the nature of one another’s rights and obligations and demonstrate mutual
respect for the dignity and worth of all involved. Finding the best solution for maximizing
enjoyment of rights takes dialogue and even debate.
Ontario’s Human Rights Code says the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s mandate
includes reducing tension and conflict in Ontario’s communities and encouraging and
co-ordinating plans, programs and activities to do this. The OHRC has developed this
Policy on Competing Human Rights to help org

Summary As people better understand their rights and wish to exercise them, some of those  rights may come into conflict with the rights of others. This is especially true in Ontario’s increasingly diverse and complex society. Conflicts can begin when an individual or group tries to enjoy or exercise a right, interest or value in an organizational context (e.g. in schools, employment, housing, etc.). At times, these claims may be in conflict, or may appear to be in conflict with other claims. Depending on the circumstances, for example, the right to be free from discrimination based on creed or sexual orientation  or gender may be at odds with each other or with other rights, laws and practices. Can  a religious employer require an employee to sign a “morality pledge” not to engage in certain sexual activity? Can an accuser testify wearing a niqab (a face veil worn by some for religious reasons) at the criminal trial of her accused? How do you resolve a situation where a professor’s guide dog causes a severe allergic reaction in a student? The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provincial human rights legislation (including the Ontario Human Rights Code) and the courts recognize that no rights are absolute and no one right is more important than another right. Our laws guarantee rights such as freedom of expression as well as protection against discrimination and harassment based on gender, creed, sexual orientation and disability, among other grounds. They require we give all rights equal consideration. The law also recognizes that rights have limits in some situations where they substantially interfere with the rights of others. The courts have said we must go through a process on a case-by-case basis to search for solutions to reconcile competing rights and accommodate individuals and groups, if possible. This search can be challenging, controversial, and sometimes dissatisfying to one side or the other. But it is a shared responsibility and made easier when we better understand the nature of one another’s rights and obligations and demonstrate mutual respect for the dignity and worth of all involved. Finding the best solution for maximizing enjoyment of rights takes dialogue and even debate. Ontario’s Human Rights Code says the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s mandate includes reducing tension and conflict in Ontario’s communities and encouraging and co-ordinating plans, programs and activities to do this. The OHRC has developed this Policy on Competing Human Rights to help org

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