Can We Really Look to the Canadian Human Rights Commission(CHRC) for Leadership?

By Donna J. Jodhan

In the eyes of many Canadians, the CHRC’s role should be one of leadership and protection when it comes to ensuring that the rights of special needs Canadians
are protected. However, based on my experiences with this esteemed agency over the past four years, I am going to have to burst the bubble. I do not
think that many Canadians with disabilities would be too shocked to hear this but I do believe that the mainstream Canadian would be.

What is a shocker to me is that this agency, despite having some very hard working and intuitive staff members, is still very much in the dark when it comes to the understanding of some very fundamental issues as they pertain to the rights of Canadians with special needs. I know from first hand experience that this agency is overworked and over burdened with many complaints. I also know that they try their best; but I also know that there is a very unhealthy
attitude that needs to be addressed at the CHRC.
I am referring to one where they feel that if a special needs person receives assistance during the course of a process, it means that the problem has been
taken care of. Never mind that during the course of the process, the right to privacy and confidentiality of the special needs person was clearly trampled
upon. Like so many other companies and organizations, the CHRC is made up of a staff that is comprised of brilliant and intuitive persons as well as of
individuals who do not really seem to know what they are about.

Over the past four years, I have had the privilege to work with some very hardworking and dedicated staff members but at the same time I have had the misfortune
to work with one or two who did not seem to understand the meaning of such things as: Accessibility, the true meaning of confidentiality and privacy,
a person’s right to confidentiality and privacy, and the meaning of the term accessible websites.
There is an old saying that states that one bad apple can spoil an entire bunch and I am afraid that this could or may very well be the case at the CHRC. For despite my overall satisfaction with the way in which the CHRC conducts its business, I am concerned that they still do not seem to really grasp the true meaning of accessibility.

We need to be realistic about our expectations when it comes to the number of complaints that the CHRC is going to be receiving from persons with special
needs within the next few years. Certain factors are going to be responsible for this and there is not much that anyone will be able to do about it.
Factors such as: The ever widening disability and digital divides, the Federal government’s continuing refusal to make their websites more accessible
to special needs Canadians, The ever increasing attitude barrier towards employment equity, the refusal of our government and federally regulated companies and organizations to make their websites accessible and break down barriers to employment, plus more.

I expect that more Canadians with special needs will start to become more vocal and demanding when it comes to preserving and protecting their rights and they would probably be looking at the CHRC to take a leadership role. The next few years are going to be challenging ones for the CHRC and one of their main challenges would be to learn how to interact with special needs Canadians and deal affectively with heir complaints. Special needs Canadians are
ready for change and why not? They are tired of having to live with over 80% of unemployment, over 70% of their group living below the poverty line, and
a continuing lack of respect for equal right to information and services.

These two statistics have been published several times and they are ones that our government is well aware of. It is now time for the CHRC to step forward
and pick up the mantle. It is time for them to go out there and obtain the necessary human resources, expertise, and funding that they need in order to
protect and preserve the rights of special needs Canadians. Do this and they will live up to their mission. Do nothing and they will continue to struggle.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your freelance writer and reporter wishing you a terrific day.

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