Toronto, November 6 (CINEWS): This week Renu Mandhane was appointed Ontario’s new Chief Human Rights Commissioner.
In her first interview with Metro Morning, CBC, she conceded that most Ontarians don’t know what the Human Rights Commission does and explained that the commission is meant to look at systemic, persistent
discrimination, not individual complaints.”There’s definitely some branding that needs to happen in terms of people really understanding what the commission is meant to do,” she said.
She has always been big on social justice while at Queen’s University years ago, Renu Mandhane started volunteering with a campus sexual health resource centre.
That started a long career in social justice and human rights, which most recently saw her working as director of the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program. In a very real way her new job is simply an extension of her truest beliefs, values and principles.
“This is a pretty special place. Most of our urban centres are the most diverse places in the world,” she said onMetro Morning.
Mandhane praised Toronto and Ontario, but she also sees issues like carding, the recent controversy over the niqab and general racism are all challenges.
“I think the fact that we are generally living in peace is a good sign. I think it sometimes breeds complacency,” she said.
The commission is meant to look at systemic, persistent discrimination, not individual complaints.
Mandhane said she wants her role to include elevating grassroots groups’ concerns about human rights. She was pleased to see the commission take up the cause of police carding — the controversial practice of stopping and questioning people without cause — and bring it to a legal level.
“I think the commission maintains some pretty robust powers,” she said. “There might be a way use those powers in certain circumstances.”
Her priorities are not set as of yet. She said it would be premature right now to figure out what she’d want to tackle first. She wants to arrive at those priorities by first making inroads into Ontario’s aboriginal communities and being proactive in working with employers, landlords and other stakeholders to figure out the most important issues facing them.