OTTAWA, September 6, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - Thirty-five years ago tomorrow, on September 7th, 1978, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) opened its doors for the first time. Since then, individuals or groups who believe they have suffered discrimination based on any of the grounds in the Canadian Human Rights Act have come to the CHRC on more than 35,000 occasions to seek remedy or redress.
Over the years, the resolution of these tens of thousands of complaints has helped shape the Canada we know today. Closed-captioning on television is one example, as are the requirements that federal buildings, voting stations and automatic teller machines be accessible to people with disabilities. The resolution of other complaints enshrined the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and the right of female soldiers to serve in combat roles, with Canada becoming one of the first countries in the world to recognize that.
In almost all cases, important changes like these originated with discrimination complaints brought to the CHRC by ordinary citizens.
When Parliament created the Canadian Human Rights Act and mandated the CHRC to administer it, it was with the vision of an inclusive society where everyone is valued and respected. Many challenges remain. Recent CHRC research documents significant gaps in the economic well-being of people with disabilities as well as Aboriginal families. Sexual harassment persists in many workplaces. And the stigma of mental illness remains a barrier to equality of opportunity for people with mental disabilities.
The CHRC's work complements the work of provincial and territorial human rights institutions tasked with ensuring that businesses and governments in their jurisdictions accommodate people's needs and treat all individuals fairly, with dignity and respect. Together with our judicial system, and the framework of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada's human rights commissions form the spinal column of a strong and effective system of protections of the civil and human rights of all Canadians.