Competing rights policy launching at York

What happens when the human rights of one person or group competes with those of another, such as a professor’s guide dog causing a severe allergic reaction in a student? That type of scenario is exactly what the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s new policy on competing human rights, launching at York Thursday, is designed to tackle.

The official policy launch will take place April 26, from 9:30am to 11:30am, at Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Fine Arts Accolade East Building, Keele campus. Registration starts at 8:30am. People who cannot attend in person, they can watch via a webcast.

According to the policy, as people better understand their rights and wish to exercise them, some of those rights may come into conflict with the rights of others. This is especially true in Ontario’s increasingly diverse and complex society. Competing human rights involve situations where parties to a dispute claim that the enjoyment of an individual or group’s human rights and freedoms, as protected by law, would interfere  Noël Badiouwith another’s rights and freedoms.

“York University is honoured to host the launch of this policy because as a university with a large and diverse community, we are committed to fostering an environment that adheres to the fundamental principles of human dignity through understanding and respect of differences,” said Noël Badiou (left), director of York’s Centre for Human Rights.

“The policy promotes the importance of constructive dialogue and provides step by step guidance to help organizations address challenging situations in which human rights appear to be in conflict.”

The Policy on Competing Human Rights is intended as a tool to help individuals and organizations, including educational institutions and workplaces, deal with conflicts and tensions that seem to pit one right against another. It provides guidelines to help resolve the conflict early on before it has a chance to fester or land in court or at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

The policy sets out a process to analyze and reconcile competing rights that emphasizes specific objectives and considerations, which include the following:

  • show dignity and respect for one another
  • encourage mutual recognition of interests, rights and obligations
  • facilitate maximum recognition of rights, wherever possible
  • help parties to understand the scope of their rights and obligations
  • address stigma and power imbalances and help to give marginalized individuals and groups a voice
  • encourage cooperation and shared responsibility for finding agreeable solutions that maximize enjoyment of rights.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provincial human rights legislation, including the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the courts recognize that no rights are absolute and no one right is more important than another.

All rights should be given equal consideration, but the law also recognizes that rights have limits in some situations where they substantially interfere with the rights of others.

The policy allows for an informal review of both parties rights, but can also be used in a more formal assessment in determining if a competing human rights situation exists. If this is needed, the policy includes concrete steps. The policy also offers steps for using alternative dispute resolution to analyze disputes.

RSVP to indicating whether you will be there in person or in need of a link for the webcast, and whether you need any Code-related accommodation. The launch is hosted by York’s Centre for Human Rights and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

For more information, contact Anita Balakrishna, advisor, education and communication at York’s Centre for Human Rights, at