Currently serving as the executive director of the highly acclaimed International Human Rights Program, U of T’s Renu Mandhane has been appointed as the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

The OHRC was established in 1961 to advocate and work for the advancement of human rights in Ontario. It focuses on providing everyone with equal opportunities regardless of an individual’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, or other circumstances which which cause an individual to be disadvantaged. To date, four chief commissioners have been appointed. The most recent executive was Barbara Hall, former mayor of Toronto; after a four-time term extension, she retired in early 2015 and interim chief Ruth Goba took over the role until Mandhane succeeded her. 

While Mandhane’s appointment is still in the process of being approved by the Standing Committee on Government Agencies, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has voiced her support in favour of the decision.

“As a long-time advocate for human rights with a focus on advancing women’s rights, we are fortunate that someone so passionate and experienced will lead the important work done by the Ontario Human Rights Commission,” said Wynne in a statement.

Over the years, Mandhane has passionately advocated for, and worked extensively to further promote human rights. A criminal lawyer by profession, she has often helped victims of domestic, and sexual abuse and federally-sentenced prisoners achieve justice during her time practicing criminal law. Additionally, she is a member of the Canada Committee of Human Rights Watch, created in 2002, and an advisor to PEN International, the world’s oldest human rights organization. Through her achievements, she has become a recognized name in the realm of international human rights law. She has said that her work internationally has helped her realize the importance of working locally and taking steps to ensure sustainable, positive social change.

“I am humbled to be provided with an opportunity to take up that challenge,” says Mandhane. 

Her term as chief commissioner is expected to begin this fall.