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Sheridan Co-Hosts Symposium on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Poverty

Sep 26, 2017
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Sheridan and a consortium of community organizations hosted a special symposium last week that focused on reframing poverty elimination as a human rights-based issue.

The symposium was presented in partnership with Halton Community Legal Services, Halton Equity & Diversity Roundtable, Halton Poverty Roundtable, Halton Information Providers, Oakville Community Foundation, Summit Housing and Outreach Programs, and Reach Out Centre for Kids.

The event keynote address was delivered by Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In her address, the Commissioner spoke about the relationship between poverty and the systemic discrimination faced by our most vulnerable communities, and the ongoing social stigma faced by those living in poverty that can prevent them from asserting their rights. “We must all look closely at how seemingly neutral systems intersect to create discrimination among our marginalized communities, and how discrimination and poverty maintain and reinforce each other,” said Commissioner Mandhane.

She also highlighted the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s work to broaden the support for social conditions within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to ensure it advances the full spectrum of rights outlined in the International Bill of Rights. “This is a moment when decisions have to be made about our core human rights values and how they will drive policies in our society,” she said. Commissioner Mandhane emphasized that all levels of government and community organizations must work together to deliver targeted, evidence-based programs for Ontario Human Rights Code-protected groups, which will in turn lift up entire communities.

The Commissioner’s address was followed by panel presentations by Elizabeth McIsaac of the Maytree Foundation, Irine Zivko and Elin Moorlag Silk of Summit Housing and Outreach Programs, and Dr. Linda Snider of the Women’s Centre of Halton. Their presentations examined the critical steps needed to establish a true culture of human rights, from policy changes to grassroots campaigns; the necessity for thoughtful data collection to support informed, evidence-based program proposals; and the importance of collaboration and knowledge-sharing among community organizations. 

Symposium participants had the opportunity to reflect on key insights from the session through facilitated small-group discussions.

A series of concurrent breakout sessions in the afternoon explored the intersectionality of human rights and identity. Topics included an overview of the Ontario human rights system, ensuring equitable access to education and extra-curricular activities for families living in poverty within a regulatory environment, the laws and policies affecting Indigenous people in Canada, and income security. 

“Today’s symposium was an important opportunity for reflection, discussion and knowledge-sharing for Halton’s network of community organizations,” said Janet Shuh, symposium co-organizer and Associate Dean at Sheridan’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Sheridan is proud to support our community collaborators as we all strive to build an equitable community where all human rights are fundamentally respected, including social and economic rights.” 

Pictured directly above: Logos of the event co-organizers.

Pictured bottom right (from left to right): Leena Sharma Seth, Director of Community Development, Halton Poverty Roundtable; Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission; Janet Shuh, Associate Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sheridan College; and Marcus Logan, Oakville Public Library. 

Pictured left (from left to right): Irine Zivko and Elin Moorlag Silk of Summit Housing and Outreach Programs, and Elizabeth McIsaac of the Maytree Foundation. Not pictured: Dr. Linda Snider, Women’s Centre of Halton. 

Pictured top right: Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, delivers the keynote address at the event.

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