Failure of the Ontario Human Rights Commission

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by Therese Osakanu
Communications Officer, AFOCSC

The Association of Public School Boards of Ontario (ACÉPO) and the Association Franco-Ontarienne des Conseils Scolaires Catholiques (AFOCSC) would like to express their disappointment following the recent publication of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) Right to Read report.

The COPD launched the Right to Read Public Inquiry in October 2019 with the goal of comprehensively reviewing how Ontario’s public education was meeting the needs of students with reading disabilities. The Right to Read report offers 157 recommendations.

The OHRC exists to promote and protect human rights. However, as soon as its survey was launched in 2019, the OHRC made the deliberate choice to exclude French-language school boards and faculties of education from its sampling. Indeed, only eight English-language boards and 13 English-language faculties of education were included. We dare to believe that a public study on public education in Ontario should take into account its 4 education systems, namely Catholic and public English language and Catholic and public French language. The OHRC acted in a manner fundamentally contrary to its mission to protect the rights of all Ontario students, regardless of the language in which they receive their education. Of the 157 recommendations in the study, French-language school boards are mentioned twice.

The OHRC is calling on all partners in Ontario’s education system to uphold their responsibilities and legal obligations under Ontario’s Human Rights Code to remove barriers that limit opportunities for student learning and success. However, the fact of having excluded French-language school boards from this study is a major issue: there are fundamental differences between the teaching of reading in a majority context, in a minority context and for immersion programs. How does the Ministry of Education plan to work with French-language school boards to implement recommendations from a study that excluded them?

Benoit Fortin, vice-president of ACÉPO, reacted as follows, “We are disappointed by the exclusion of the perspective of French-language education from this survey and dare to hope for the completion of a new study on the needs specific to students attending French-language schools.

For her part, Johanne Lacombe, President of the AFOCSC, stated, “We are confident that the Ministry of Education will understand the importance of obtaining evidence on the particular challenges of Francophone students related to learning reading in a minority setting, before asking the French-language school boards to implement solutions.”

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