Statement - CHRC Annual Report: 2017 was the year when the “invisible became visible”

April 18, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) issues the following statement upon the release of the CHRC’s 2017 Annual Report:

“Looking back, I believe 2017 will be remembered as a pivotal year for the advancement of equality in Canada – a tipping point. It was a year when the invisible became visible. When the tolerable became intolerable. People across Canada joined the chorus of voices around the world speaking out against discrimination and harassment in ways we have not seen in decades.

“The groundswell of marches, protests, rallies and social media campaigns of 2017 all shined a light on the fact that racism, misogyny and bigotry are far more common, personal and pervasive in Canada than most want to admit.

The truth is: we all know someone who has experienced discrimination or harassment – that we may not have thought to ask about it, or that we may not have been willing to listen or acknowledge it. Too many people have been invisible – unable to share their stories or have their voices heard.

“Thankfully, that is starting to change. This year, we saw two new grounds of discrimination added to the Canadian Human Rights Act – making it explicit that people are protected from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression, or their genetic characteristics. The result:  bringing visibility to groups of individuals who have felt excluded and ignored by federal human rights law.

“These additions to the Act are proof that when our laws no longer reflect the reality of our society, they can change.  They can evolve.  We just need people to speak out and challenge the status quo.

“That is why the unprecedented engagement that we witnessed in 2017 is so encouraging. Some of the people who came forward this year to tell their story may very well have been reluctant to do so in the past, but they saw an opportunity to bring about change. They saw an opportunity to challenge the invisibility that was imposed upon them and their situations.

“Time and again, human rights complaints show the negative impact one individual can have over another. Yet the courage of the complainants also show us that one individual has the power to do good – not just for themselves, but for society as a whole.  Human rights complaints are one way to help lift the veil of invisibility on issues. In 2017, the CHRC initiated a new online complaint form, and in the process, identified a community of people looking to be heard – a community of people which had been invisible to the traditional complaint model. We will be working hard to bring these complaints to light and use them to bring advances in human rights to all Canadians.

“In the end, advancing human rights can also be about the simple actions of one person that can inspire others, that can start movements, or that can change laws and change workplaces. It is in that spirit that the CHRC’s 2017 Annual Report features the stories of individuals looking to create positive and lasting change for countless others. 

“Each organization, each person, each individual, has the power to make a difference in people’s lives and to contribute to making Canada a more inclusive, greater country. We can all play a part in making the invisible more visible.”

The CHRC’s 2017 Annual Report to Parliament is now available on the CHRC’s website.

Quick Facts

  • In 2017, disability remained by far (59%) the most cited ground of discrimination by people in Canada.
  • At the same time, a combined proportion of 23% of the complaints received by the CHRC in 2017 were related to the person’s race; colour; and/or national or ethnic origin.
  • 18% of all complaints received by the CHRC in 2017 were related to mental health.
  • The majority (46%) of the complaints the CHRC received in 2017 came from people living in Ontario.
  • In November 2017, the CHRC appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada in a landmark case known as Matson and Andrews to argue that the people of Canada be allowed to use the human rights system to fight discrimination when it results from a federal law. 
  • The CHRC’s Annual Report also features five stories about individual Canadians overcoming adversity and creating inclusion for others. They touch upon various human rights issues, including concerns around genetic testing; the fight for accommodation for persons with disabilities; issues facing people in Canada’s North; the reality for many female commercial truck drivers; and how artistic expression, such as dance, can inspire social inclusion and even change.

Associated Links

People First: Canadian Human Right’s Commission’s 2017 Annual Report to Parliament

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