Ontario Legislature Back in Session

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Ontario Legislature Back in Session

The Ontario Legislature returned to Session on February 16, 2016 after a winter recess, which began on December 10, 2015.  Several exciting items are on the agenda.

Recent Announcements: The “Anti-Racism Directorate”

After a fall sitting that saw several civil liberties- and human rights-related legislation either passed or introduced[1], the Ontario Legislature is looking to focus on jobs and the economy in this sitting.[2]  Indeed, the Ontario government is rolling out its budget this coming week.[3]  This action is understandable, given that Canada currently faces economic crosswinds.

In the midst of this economic hustle and bustle this past week, Ontario announced that it is establishing an “Anti-Racism Directorate”.  The Directorate will work with key stakeholders in the society to further two goals: (1) promote inclusivity through public education and awareness of racism; (2) bring an anti-racism angle to developing, implementing, and evaluating government policies, programs and services.[4]

While this is a welcome announcement, it is interesting to note that in 2006, the Ontario Liberal government announced its intentions to do the same.  Premier Kathleen Wynne cited the carding issue and the response to Syrian refugees as impetuses this past year for this announcement.[5]

Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sport, Michael Coteau, will be heading the Directorate.

One might say that the Directorate’s functions should already be part of the government’s mandate.  It will be interesting to see how the establishment of a separate body plays out, if and to what extent it operates separately from the workings of the government, and what impact this will have in furthering the stated goals.

Recess: Not Simply a Holiday

As an aside: during a legislative recess, MPPs (and representatives at other levels of government) get a chance to interact and work with their constituents, stakeholders, individuals, and groups.  This function plays into the notions of democracy as a mechanism for representation, scrutiny, and accountability.  A recess is not simply a holiday!

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.

References

[1] https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2015/12/14-bills-passed-and-6-additional-bills-introduced-during-fall-sitting.html

[2] http://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/sparring-over-jobs-economy-expected-when-ontario-legislature-resumes-1.2778627

[3] http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/opposition+parties+ready+pounce+liberals+ontario+legislature+resumes/11722283/story.html

[4] https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2016/02/ontario-establishing-an-anti-racism-directorate.html

[5] http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2016/02/16/ontario-setting-up-anti-racism-panel-10-years-after-passing-legislation.html