New human rights commission strategic plan tackles racial profiling, solitary confinement

It's the product of feedback from nearly 300 people over the last year, says chief commissioner Renu Mandhane.

It's the product of feedback from nearly 300 people over the last year, says chief commissioner Renu Mandhane

Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane says the new OHRC strategic plan aims to build a "culture of human rights in the province." (CBC)

The Ontario Human Rights Commission publicly released its new five-year strategic plan Thursday morning.

It's the product of feedback from nearly 300 people over the last year and "hundreds of hours spent traveling across the province," Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner of the OHRC, told CBC's Metro Morning.

From advocating for a tougher stance on racial profiling to sounding the alarm over solitary confinement, it has been a busy year for the OHRC. 

"I am consistently amazed by how many people are personally invested in the work of the OHRC and care deeply about our success," Mandhane wrote in the new plan.

"They encouraged us to use our unique mandate to address anti-Black racism, Indigenous reconciliation, Islamophobia, the rights of children and youth, and persistent discrimination in employment and in the criminal justice system."

Building a 'culture of human rights'

The strategy going forward will strive to build a "culture of human rights in the province," she said.

The plan highlights four areas which the OHRC will focus on from 2017 to 2022:

  • Reconciliation with Indigenous communities 
  • Reducing systemic discrimination in the criminal justice system
  • Addressing poverty as a human rights issue
  • Promoting a human rights culture throughout Ontario

In the criminal justice realm, the commission hopes to end "racial profiling in all police practices" and the use of solitary confinement in provincial jails.

Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services David Orazietti previously said solitary confinement should be used "under the least restrictive conditions possible," but added total elimination "doesn't really stand the test of the practical realities in the institutions, where an individual may need to be segregated for their own safety or the safety of others."​

One of the OHRC's other goals is a human rights paradigm for Ontario that reconciles the province's human rights system with Indigenous frameworks, concepts, processes, and laws, according to the plan.

The full plan is online on the OHRC website. 

The plan's public release reflects the OHRC's commitment to "hearing from Ontarians directly," Mandhane said.

"We have a mandate that doesn't lend itself that well to quantifiable measures," she said.

"But with this plan we're actually making public commitments."