In early February, the interns had the chance to meet with Ena Chadha, the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). The OHRC is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the Ontario Code of Human Rights. We learned that Ontario has one of the world’s oldest human rights legislations, which served as inspiration for the American Civil Rights Act. Commissioner Chadha told us that the ORHC is the “law reform engine” of Ontario, and described several cases which have brought significant changes to benefit human rights in the province.
Commissioner Chadha walked us through how cases are brought to the Ontario Human Rights tribunal, and how their legal support centre works to make justice more accessible to low income populations. We were especially interested to learn about how the OHRC has adapted during the pandemic, and how the issues they are addressing now have evolved as a result of stay at home orders and other pandemic measures. Commissioner Chadha explained that until the onset of the pandemic, the most common cases brought to the OHRC were regarding employment, but since last March, most cases have been about accessing goods and services.
Commissioner Chadha has a background as a human rights litigator with an expertise in disability rights, so it was fascinating to learn more about her storied career and an honour to hear her advice to us as young people interested in enacting change.
We really appreciated learning more about the important work of the Ontario Human Right Commission! Thank you, Commissioner Chadha, for taking the time to meet with us!