The HRLSC recognizes the particular history and disadvantage of Ontario’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The HRLSC established an Indigenous Services and Outreach Committee and has implemented culturally appropriate service guidelines in order to increase usage of the human rights system by Indigenous peoples.
The Human Rights Legal Support Centre recognizes that Indigenous peoples have not traditionally used the human rights process. There are many valid reasons for this, including the legitimate concern that raising a human rights matter as an Indigenous person may produce a disproportionate and intensely negative local reaction that could have an impact on other Indigenous persons in the community.
The HRLSC is committed to providing Indigenous people with an accessible legal service. Services are provided in 140 languages including Cree, Oji-Cree, Mohawk, and Ojibway. Have someone who speaks English call us, or let us know at the start of your call, and we will arrange to speak with you in the language of your choice at no cost to you. If requested by you, you can to one of the HRLSC's Indigenous legal staff at any level.
Land and Treaty Acknowledgement
The HRLSC provides services throughout Ontario and has lawyers located in Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton, London, Thunder Bay, and Windsor. Accordingly, we acknowledge our presence on the traditional territories of the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabeg, Attawandaron and Leni-Lunaape, the Métis homeland and particularly the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. The place now called Ontario is home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and operate in this land.
The HRLSC also recognizes and acknowledges we are in the territory subject to the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Anishinaabeg and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the land and waters of the Great Lakes region.
Disclaimer: This is general information only. It is not legal advice about your own situation. This information is reliable as of the date of publication (March 2021). You should be aware that the law and procedures under the Human Rights Code (Code) and at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) are subject to change.
Anti-Indigenous racism is a reality in many towns, cities and is experienced by First Nations communities across Ontario. Many Indigenous individuals are faced with discriminatory treatment on the job, in housing, or while accessing public services. In those circumstances, there is a human right to be free from discrimination.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) is a provincial administrative tribunal that resolves claims of discrimination and harassment brought under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the provincial law that prohibits discrimination). The HRTO has the power to hold employers, landlords, and service providers accountable and may compensate people for the injury caused to them from their discriminatory experience. The HRTO can also award broader systemic remedies such as human rights training or the development of a human rights policy.
Video: Defending your human rights in Ontario – what you need to know
This video takes Indigenous people through every-day discrimination scenarios at home, when shopping and at work. It provides information about Ontario’s Human Rights Code and how to get free legal help from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. The video is a joint project of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario.
In October 2020, our Indigenous Services and Outreach Committee celebrated its 10th anniversary! It was an opportunity for HRLSC to look back at the hard work that made ISOC what it is today and to build on that vision and carry it forward for years to come.
ISOC was tabled in 2010 with a focus on developing a service to engage Indigenous service users across the province. The committee’s approach was to build trust by increasing outreach to other agencies and Indigenous groups by offering free Public Legal Education sessions on the Ontario Human Rights Code and Tribunal process, and developing partnerships with a larger focus on building a culturally safe service that could answer to the very specific needs of Indigenous clients.
(image explanation: Significant milestones of ISOC since its creation)
Since its beginning, we observed the necessity and impact of ISOC in the community. Between 2016 and 2018, Indigenous Services inquiries increased by 131%. In 2019, we saw another 30% growth. ISOC stats demonstrate that this trend has continued, despite COVID-19 impacts.
The anniversary was also an opportunity to highlight key ISOC partnerships and acknowledge contributions from the people who inspired them and reflect on how they have impacted urban Indigenous communities. Partnerships were formed and strengthened through the work of ISOC staff shortly after its formation, and include:
Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres:
In September 2015, the N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre welcomed the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC) to launch the Provincial Indigenous Human Rights Training Initiative. Read the full media release on Canada Newswire.
(From left to right: ISOC first Coordinator, Lori Mishibinijima, Marie Meawasige, Executive Director of the N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre and Secretary of the OFIFC, former HRLSC ED Kathy Laird, former Board Member Patrick Nadjiwan and former CAO Nancy Chisholm)
Our successful collaboration with the OFIFC also includes the creation of a video project funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario.
Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre:
In 2012-2013, Jamie McGinnis organized and staffed Application Clinics at the Friendship Centre, and in 2016 was involved with the collaboration between the Friendship Centre and Elevate NWO.
Public Legal Education in Thunder Bay: 2011 Jamie delivered a presentation on the Ontario Human Rights Code to Indigenous youth at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School; taught a course on Indigenous Human Rights at Confederation College in 2013; in 2018, delivered a presentation at the Person’s Day Breakfast organized by the local LEAF chapter on “Delivering an Indigenous Service at HRLSC”, and in 2019 delivered a presentation to the Northern Legal Clinics at the Northern Regional Training Session on Indigenous Self- Identification, polices, processes and terms.
In 2019, Jamie represented ISOC at the welcoming party for the New Indigenous Relations Manager at the City of Thunder Bay.
Kinna Aweya Legal Clinic: Jamie served as a Board Member for the Kinna Aweya Legal Clinic (all Indigenous Board) from 2018-2020.
Legal Aid Ontario – Mobile Justice Clinics: Since the fall of 2018, HRLSC ISOC London staff began participating in the Mobile Justice Clinics, in partnership with LAO. The Mobile Justice Clinics, hosted by N’amerind Friendship Centre in London, offer free legal consultation in several areas, including human rights.
Pro Bono Students Canada – Indigenous Human Rights Program Advisory Council: The HRLSC has joined other non-profit organizations (including the OHRC, CHRC and OFIFC) to support Pro Bono Students Canada’s Indigenous Human Rights Program which is funded by the Emil Gumpert Award Grant. The program will deliver culturally appropriate human rights assistance to Indigenous communities. The HRLSC has agreed to assist by offering our expertise to train the student participants.
Ontario Human Rights Commission Indigenous Reconciliation Advisory Group: Along with other organizations who have deep substantive knowledge of discrimination and inequality experienced by Indigenous people, the HRLSC has joined the Indigenous Reconciliation Advisory Group created by Chief Commissioner to provide periodic information and advice to the OHRC to inform decision-making and ongoing work.
Despite procedural and other barriers to accessing justice and equality, Indigenous People courageously set aside distrust of colonial judicial systems to challenge human rights violations they personally experience. HRLSC endeavors to help by listening to their stories and exploring options for resolving issues in the protected areas and grounds covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code.
HRLSC works to strengthen Indigenous Services to assist and support Indigenous communities by demystifying and offering services at every stage of the Human Rights Tribunal process. ISOC continues to welcome invitations to provide learning opportunities and resources addressing anti-discrimination through Ontario laws and legal processes.
Lori Mishibinijima at a 2016 workshop for Keewaytinok Native Legal Services.
Kathy Laird, former HRLSC’s ED and Lori Mishibinijima above the Moose River in Moosonee.