1. Research and community engagement

The Equality and Community Initiative seeks to enhance engagement and collaboration with community-based organizations (see lower on page) on issues relating to equality, systemic discrimination and access to fundamental social and economic rights.

An important component of this project is to generate innovative legal and policy based analysis and research on access to justice, equality rights and economic and social rights, and highlights recurrent rights violations, focusing on the Montreal region.  It will also seek to collaboratively develop educational materials for identifying and remedying rights violations for use in community-based organizations and strengthen the capacity of community-based organizations to identify and contest the systemic and recurrent violations of equality and social and economic rights; and to promote transformative human rights education.

To know more about the current resources available to counter systemic discrimination, see the Resources on Systemic Inequalities [.pdf].  

Community-Based Organizations

Community organizations have become increasingly engaged in human rights advocacy, addressing issues of discrimination and harassment, and issues of social and economic rights. They have been active in supporting and representing individual and group claimants seeking human rights justice before human rights commissions, tribunals and courts; representing community perspectives by intervening in important cases; working to contest and prevent human rights violations through community-based campaigns; public policy and law reform, and education.

Many significant equality rights advances in Canadian law have involved community organizations as advocates and representatives. Yet, there is relatively little research and scholarship on the critical role of community organizations in promoting human rights in Canada. In this collaborative community and university research initiative, ECI seeks to fill this gap by examining how community organizations contest violations of human rights, the obstacles they face in doing so, the essential support they provide for individuals who experience rights violations and their work in trying to prevent human rights abuses through education and social transformation both in everyday community contexts and in institutional and public policy.

The growing involvement of community organizations in equality rights struggles has emerged in a policy context of increased privatization, a retreat of the social welfare state, and the restructuring of state-based models for human rights enforcement. While it is critical for governments to continue to assume a central responsibility for the effective implementation of human rights, it is timely for researchers to examine how to reinforce the growing role played by community organizations in access to justice. New ideas about effective collaboration between governments and community organizations are critically needed.

In many parts of the world, community organizations play a vital and growing role in mediating issues of social justice and securing the effective enjoyment of human rights. Not only is such a collaborative research initiative important in developing human rights law and policy in Canada, it is also significant internationally.