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What can you do when you feel your human rights have been infringed?

In the busy lives of men, women and even children, today, there are so many thousands of interactions between and among people.

Most of those experiences might be good, happy, routine, tolerable and just part of everyday life. However, from time to time, people experience an interaction or incident that does not feel right; it might feel like you have been treated in a disrespectful way because of your colour, gender, religion or some other personal attribute. If it happens once people tend to ignore it and put it down to another person’s ignorance or bad day. However, if you or your child or another family member or close friend are regularly treated in a disrespectful manner and there appears to be a pattern developing then some attention and thought needs to be given to the situation.

There are fifteen grounds of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code. They are:

Race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed or religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status including same sex partners, family status, receipt of public assistance (in accommodation only) and record of offences (in employment only). (Source L. Kosowan, May 2009).

When working in or interacting with an institution, organization, workplace, school or other place where members of society intersect, issues may arise between and/or among people. If you notice a pattern of behaviour that feels like harassment, discrimination, prejudice or unfair treatment it is important to seek help. In large organizations there are usually Human Resource or complaints offices where you can talk to people. In schools, students and parents are encouraged to talk with teachers, counsellors or administration. When you talk to these people you need to insist that the patterns be addressed and you need to ask for commitments in writing. You also need to protect yourself or your children and loved ones from being victims of these patterns of bullying. If necessary, contact should be made with higher authorities within the organization.

When these interactions move from nonviolent patterns to abusive behaviours like stalking and assault then, if you have not already done so, you need to immediately involve police. 

There are websites and helplines for assault victims that offer assistance; the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of the Attorney General as well as the City of Toronto websites have useful information; shelters in local communities, legal aid offices, cultural centres, community centres, women’s centres, libraries, places of worship and government offices are all places that can offer information on how to get help.

It is important to talk about these issues. 

There may be reasons why a victim does not or cannot talk to people about a pattern of inappropriate behaviours that she/he is being forced to tolerate. 

If as a bystander you witness victimization of someone else it is important for you to talk to someone about how assistance might be offered without exacerbating the situation. 

It is never easy – doing the right thing is often not easy – but it is critically important. 

– DR VICKI BISMILLA

Posted: Sep 6, 2017

November 2017





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