Those who have completed their sentences and discharged their debt to society face significant discrimination in many areas because of criminal records – exacerbating their poverty. Rights based approaches to poverty mean opening up access to rights for all, and the right to work is one of the rights entrenched in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, United Nations General Assembly (Article 23).
Bill 164 is currently being tabled in Ontario and it would extend human rights protection against forms of discrimination. This is an important step to address forms of discrimination that are keeping people poor, and discriminating against people for being poor in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties. The bill would stop discrimination based on genetics, immigration status, social condition (poverty) and police records. If passed Bill 164 could have a significant impact in stopping discrimination practices in hiring and in discrimination against potential tenants.
Amendments to various provisions of the Act are made including amendments to provide that every person has a right to equal treatment, without discrimination because of immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records and social condition, with respect to services, goods and facilities, the occupancy of accommodation, the right to contract, employment and membership in various types of organizations. Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2017
In 2016-17 the Poverty Roundtable HPE held community conversations with people who were experiencing or had experienced poverty, on the causes and impacts of poverty. Employment barriers were frequently cited as a cause of poverty, noting having a criminal record as a significant barrier to employment and a cause of long-term poverty. Preliminary inquiries, carried out with local employers in the summer of 2017, speak to both local actions that are reducing those barriers and to practices that continue to put up employment barriers. The short report provides an overview of what we heard and learned. Individuals from businesses, manufacturers, economic councils, agencies and people with criminal records participated in this learning exploration.
Access the report here: Barriers to Employment
Go, A, Douglas, D. & Konanur, S. (Oct. 19, 2017). Ontario bill with vast human rights protections at risk of dying. Toronto Star (online) https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/10/19/ontario-bill-with-vast-human-rights-protections-at-risk-of-dying.html
Bill 164, Human Rights Code Amendment Act (2017). Legislative Assembly of Ontario. (online) http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&Intranet=&BillID=5136