New book tackles complexity of competing human rights

cover of Balancing Competing Human Rights Claims in a Diverse Society

The practice of human rights is becoming increasingly complex in diverse societies such as Canada, according to a new book edited by two York professors and a director with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

Balancing Competing Human Rights Claims in a Diverse Society: Institutions, Policy, Principles (Irwin Law) explores the dilemma of balancing competing human rights in diverse societies where the claim to a right by cover of Balancing Competing Human Rights Claims in a Diverse Societyone individual or group directly affects another’s claim.

The book’s launch will take place Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 6 to 8pm, in the Senior Common Room at McLaughlin College, Keele campus. Barbara Hall, chief commissioner of OHRC, will be the guest speaker at the event. The book was published in cooperation with the OHRC.

York Professor Lorne Foster of the School of Public Policy & Administration, Department of Equity Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) and director of the graduate program in Public Policy & Law, York political science Professor Les Jacobs, who is also the academic director/executive director of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice at Osgoode Hall Law School, and Shaheen Azmi, director, policy, education, monitoring and outreach at OHRC, co-edited the book.

“To my knowledge this is the first time that a government agency and university professors have combined to work together on policy and research development culminating in a major academic text,” says Foster.

The book is a culmination of work that began in 2005, when the OHRC embarked on a process to develop the first policy in Canada to address competing human rights claims. There was extensive consultation with the photo of Lorne Fosterpublic, academics, human rights commissions elsewhere in the country and stakeholders in the human rights community in Ontario. These efforts resulted in a policy for Ontario which was released in April.

Lorne Foster

York’s Centre for Human Rights is a strong supporter of the OHRC’s new policy and is seeking ways in which to incorporate the competing rights resolution framework into its case resolution processes.

Part One of the book presents the policy, along with a series of chapters that provide instructive background for the development of the policy.

Part Two – Principles and Applications – broadens the scope of the discussion by exploring broad principles at stake when human rights compete. The chapters examine the reconciliation of legal rights, reaching equilibrium between conflicting rights, regulating hate speech in Canada, as well as where sexual orientation and religion fit in, and the rights of persons with disabilities.