Human Rights Commission already has civilian oversight – Mandhane

Renu Mandhane

Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) says the agency has civilian oversight through part-time Commissioners appointed  by  the Lieutenant Governor.

” And that includes nine people who are active in the community, among them black individuals,” she noted.

Mandhane  was responding to the recent call by Kenneth Jeffers, the lone Black member  of  the Toronto Police Services Board, for the establishment of ” a civilian oversight Board of  the Human Rights Commission with a standing sub-committee to address anti-Black racism issues.”

Kenneth Jeffers and Renu Mandhane

Jeffers spoke of  the need for  such  a Board at a meeting of the recently formed Expose  Toronto Committee (ETC) which discussed Anti-Black racism in the workplace.

He  is calling  on  Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn to meet  with the  ETC  to discuss  the  setting  up of  the  proposed  civilian  oversight  Board  ” in consultation with the Anti Racism Directorate and Justice Michael Tulloch”  who headed  the recent independent  review of Ontario police oversight bodies.

In an interview this week, Mandhane said she was a ” little perplexed” by Jeffer’s call for civilian oversight of  the Commission.

“Firstly he has never raised those issues  with me directly and secondly, we already have  civilian oversight,  so to speak,” she told the Caribbean Camera.

Mandhane  pointed  out  that the Commissioners  who are appointees ” approve all of  the Commission’s work.”

She  said, however, that Jeffer’s concerns about Anti-Black racism are serious matters ” and deserve  serious consideration.

“I do want to understand what those concerns are and I’m looking forward to meeting with him  to discuss them  and see  if there’s any action to be taken.”

Mandhane noted that the OHRC has recently launched an inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black people by the Toronto Police.

” So obviously, we are very much alive to anti-racism being a key concern,” she added.

“What we have heard from the community for many years was that individual community members  did not feel comfortable filing complaints against the police because  of the real power differential between  an average citizen  and the police,” she said.

“And that’s exactly why  we exercised our mandate  to launch a public inquiry.”

She pointed out that as the part of the inquiry into policing  ” we want to work in collaboration   with service organizations  and other community hubs  to make sure   the community understands  what the Commission is doing  and feel  that is safe  to engage with us  on issues of racial profiling,”

She said the OHC  has set up a dedicated (telephone) line for  persons with concerns about  racial profiling.

They  can get in touch  with the Commission at 416-314-4547.

They can also send an email to

Mandhane also noted that Ontario government  has announced that it will be launching   an anti-racism strategy to deal with Anti-Black racism  in the Ontario public service  and the City of Toronto  has also recently passed   an initiative  to address Anti-Black racism.

“And, of course, we are supportive of those initiatives in terms of our own mandate.”