Halton Region Heritage Services Insider's Look

Ontario Human Rights Code

Ontario Human Rights Code

The Rights Step Forward by Mackenzie B. Gillies

            On October 19, 1977, Halton Region Heritage Services received a copy of the Ontario Human Rights Code, 1962 as a gift from Magistrate K.M. Langdon of Georgetown, Ontario. The artifact is secured in a black frame measuring 49cm in length and 33cm in width. A cream-coloured piece of cardboard with black, blue, and red text is contained within the pane of glass. Premier John P. Robart’s signature is present on the bottom right corner of the Code; the document is dated June 15, 1962.

            My name is Mackenzie B. Gillies, and I am beginning my History M.A. at McMaster University in September 2017. I believe that the Code reflects one of the many contributions that the Ontario government made to the betterment of Canadian society during the mid-20th century. Between 1961 and 1971, Premier Robart’s administration established the GO Transit railways, community college system, Niagara Escarpment Commission, Ontario Science Centre, Ontario Place, and the Confederation of Tomorrow conference.[1] For his dedication to the public welfare, Robarts can be rightly considered a Canadian nation-builder. 

            Ontario’s Human Rights Code contributed to the “beginning of Canada’s rights revolution.”[2] The document “prohibited discrimination on the basis of religion, race, and ethnicity in accommodation, employment, and services”[3] throughout the province. Premier Robart’s administration made an important contribution to the development of a more respectful and understanding civil society. The Code predates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by almost twenty years, reinforcing the provincial government’s vision of a more socially-cohesive country.  

            Significantly, the legislation came into effect on the 747th anniversary of the granting of Magna Carta in 1215. The medieval document became the legal basis for freedom, democracy, and rule of law in Canada and throughout the Commonwealth of Nations.[4] Ontario’s Human Rights Code, 1962 is a part of a much larger legal tradition that spans centuries and unites people from across the world. As such, Canada remains connected to a rich history of societal dedication to human welfare.

            The modern liberties and rights that Canadians enjoy are due to the work of members of the community who serve the public. Legal culture and tradition must be nurtured and respected by citizens. As Premier Robarts stated on the document:

            The aim of the Ontario Human Rights Code is to create a climate of understanding and mutual respect among our people, so that all will be afforded the unhampered opportunity to contribute their maximum to the development and enrichment of our province.   

[1] Steve Paikin, “Twenty-five years ago, the end of a double life,” The Globe and Mail, accessed June 21, 2017, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/twenty-five-years-ago-the-end-of-a-double life/article725827/.

[2] Dominique Clément, Will Silver and Daniel Trottier, “The Evolution of Human Rights in Canada,” Canadian Human Rights Commission, accessed June 21, 2017, http://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/sites/default/files/ehrc_edpc-eng.pdf.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “The Magna Carta in Canada for its 800th Anniversary,” Government of Canada, last modified February 17, 2015,  https://www.canada.ca/en/news/archive/2015/02/magna-carta-canada-800th-a....