Cornish’s human rights system expertise and experience was called upon early in her career. In her 1992 Achieving Equality Report for the Ontario Government. Mary called for a new human rights system which embedded a proactive systemic approach to achieving the rights of disadvantaged groups. This approach was based on understanding that human rights compliance requires commitment, consultation and action on many different and intersecting pathways.
These understandings, further developed over the years since as a result of jurisprudence and research still guide her consulting approach today and can be summarized below:
Embed a human rights and equity culture in workplaces, communities and public policies by taking proactive steps to identify and address issues. In this way disadvantaged groups do not need to file complaints; organizations are spared costly litigation and can focus on achieving their objectives within an equitable framework;
Think systemically and map out structural barriers and inequalities using a gender and equity lens, planning and monitoring process;
Identify and take into account complex hierarchies of power, influence and privilege which can often invisibly sustain inequities and block progress for equity seeking groups;
Be prepared to challenge the status quo and institutional practices and prejudices which have sustained an inequitable labour market;
Commit to work diligently and effectively to plan for and secure the human rights of those affected by your decision-making – in other words – be a "human rights champion";
Commit to devoting adequate resources and time to achieving goals and monitor results to ensure goals are achieved;
Ensure there are effective human rights processes and change mechanisms embedded in organizational and policy decision-making and planning;
Collaborate and seek input from equity seeking groups to ensure barriers and impacts are identified and positive measures addressed;
Listen to the voices of all generations and diverse organizational perspectives to facilitate effective collaboration and problem solving;
Rely on human rights research, equity data, jurisprudence and promising practices to inform decision-making; and
Where adjudication is necessary to enforce human rights, treat litigation and mediation as two equally respected ways to secure human rights and resolve disputes.