Neil Edwards is a human rights consultant with OP Law. Neil is a social worker by profession and former career public servant with the Ontario Public Service (“OPS”). As a public servant, he held several senior managerial and leadership positions in the OPS. Prior to joining the Ontario Public Service, he worked as a social worker in Montreal and Toronto.
Neil has over 30 years of varied experience in the field of human rights, social justice activism, social work, investigation, mediation, organizational design and change management, human resource management, professional coaching and development, facilitation, business process design and assisting organizations to become equitable, diverse, and inclusive.
In the Ontario Public Service, Neil was the Project Director of the OPS Diversity Strategy and Executive Lead of the OPS Diversity Office, reporting to the Associate Secretary of the Cabinet. Neil was the first public servant, to lead the OPS in its major diversity and inclusive initiative.
As Lead of the OPS Diversity Office, he was specifically tasked with creating a road map to assist the OPS in its modernization and transformation process to identify and remove discriminatory barriers in employment, increase the representation of diverse groups at all leadership levels, and deliver efficient, inclusive and diverse public service to Ontarians. He also led the OPS Accessibility Leadership Strategy, developing an employer, multi-year, implementation plan, to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Prior to joining the OPS Diversity Office, he was a senior manager with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, Ontario Human Rights Commission (“Commission”) and worked as the Director of Mediation and Investigation. In this role, he was responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Ontario Human Rights Code and delivery of Ontario’s human rights compliance program in Ontario. In 2003, he was a recipient of the Commission’s Employee Excellence Award in Leadership.
Neil was instrumental in significantly improving the Commission’s human rights compliance program and service delivery through the development and implementation of a number of change management and strategic initiatives. Neil was leader of the team that facilitated negotiated settlements with the Toronto District School Board and the Ministry of Education. The settlements were aimed at removing barriers to education, for students from racialized groups and students with disabilities by modifying the safe schools provisions of Ontario’s Education Act.
As a human rights practitioner and specialist, Neil lectures publicly on human rights issues and particularly, on the Ontario Human Rights Code. He also delivers human rights education in general to employers, service providers and a variety of organizations, institutions and community groups in Ontario and other provinces to assist them in the prevention of human rights issues, enabling diversity and inclusion.
Neil specializes in leading and conducting complex human rights investigations, providing human rights training, education, learning, development, and mediation, and professional coaching to employees. Neil directs extensive human rights investigations for large multifaceted, complex, and unionized organizations such as The Peel District School Board, The Toronto District School Board, and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. He also provides coaching, facilitation and mentoring for employees of large organizations.
Neil also provides consulting services to the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Marine Services and Merchant Shipping (ADOMS), St. John’s, Antigua, West Indies.
Critical Human Rights Work
In his human rights work generally, Neil has:
- Represented the Ontario Human Rights Commission at the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, 2001
- Represented the Ontario Human Rights Commission at the Regional Conference of the Americas on the Progress and Challenges of the Programme of Action Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Brasilia, Brazil, July 2006
- Represented the African Canadian Legal Clinic at: The Social and Economic Panorama for Latin America and the Caribbean on the occasion of the visit to Canada of Mr. Jose Luis Machinea, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Ottawa, May 2007
Research Papers and Presentations
In his domestic and international human rights interests, Neil has:
- Researched, co-authored and presented a paper titled: “Human Rights and Future Policy Discourse” to the J. S. Woodsworth Conference, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia, September 2005
- Researched, authored, and presented a paper titled: “Closer to Justice: Ensuring the Accessibility of Anti-Discrimination Enforcement Bodies” at the 10th Annual Conference of the International Metropolis Project, Toronto, Canada, October 2005
- Researched, co-authored, and presented a paper titled “Human Rights Protection in Canada: Implications for the Shift to Direct Access” to the University of Southern Mississippi Human Rights Conference, Mississippi, April 2006
- Researched, co-authored, and presented a paper titled: “ Using Canadian Human Rights Processes to Further Racial Inclusiveness” to the Eight International Conference on Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Montreal, Quebec, June 2008
- Researched and authored a report for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General titled: “Framework Report for A Diversity and Inclusion Strategy”, August 2009
- Researched, authored, and presented a paper titled: “The Case for the Promotion, Advancement, and Protection of Human Rights in An Internationally Oriented, Multi-disciplinary and Inclusive Organization” to the Faculty of Education, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, November 2009