Ontario Human Rights CommissionTwo New OHRC Policies Addressing Discrimination…
Fighting for human rights for Ontarians with mental health or addiction disabilities
People with mental health disabilities or addictions have long faced discrimination, stigmatization and social exclusion in Ontario, across our nation and the globe. The Supreme Court of Canada has weighed in on this longstanding injustice:
There is no question but that the mentally ill in our society have suffered from historical disadvantage, have been negatively stereotyped and are generally subject to social prejudice.
Nearly one in five Canadian adults will experience a mental illness or addiction, according to research. Many people may be afraid to disclose their disability to others due to the extreme stigma surrounding certain types of mental health disabilities and addictions. Whether in their jobs, by their landlords, or when receiving services, many individuals experience adverse treatment, negative attitudes and harassment. As a result, people with mental health disabilities or addictions are more likely to have low incomes and live in chronic poverty.
The OHRC launched a new policy this summer that aims to provide practical, user-friendly guidance on how to define, assess, handle and resolve human rights issues related to mental health and addiction disabilities.
"Fear, ignorance and a lack of understanding has led to unequal access to opportunities for people with mental health or addiction disabilities in our society. I believe people are now ready to accept that everyone must be treated equitably. I hope that this policy will become a tool for change," said OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall.
In particular, the Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions addresses:
- Different forms of discrimination (e.g. profiling, harassment, systemic discrimination, poisoned environment)
- People's rights under the Code at work, in rental housing, and when receiving services
- Organizations' responsibilities to prevent and eliminate discrimination
- How to create environments that are inclusive and free from discrimination
- How the duty to accommodate applies to people with mental health or addiction disabilities
- How to balance the right of someone with a mental health issue or addiction to be free from discrimination where this may conflict with the rights of others
Click here to watch our Mental Health Disabilities and Addictions policy launch in English.
Protecting the human rights of trans people in Ontario
Everyone has the right to define their own gender identity. Yet people who are transgender, or gender non-conforming, frequently and pervasively experience discrimination, harassment and even violence because their gender identity or gender expression is different from their birth-assigned sex.
In April, the OHRC launched the Policy on preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression to help protect the rights of trans individuals and people of diverse genders.
The original policy, developed in 2000, was completely revised and updated after Ontario added the grounds "gender identity" and "gender expression" to the Code in 2012 (what is known as Toby's Act), and following extensive consultation with the trans community, healthcare workers, housing providers, social service organizations, and educators, to ensure the policy reflects today's lived reality for this severely marginalized community.
"It has been a long struggle to have these rights clearly protected in the Code. Adding these grounds makes it clear that trans people are entitled to the same legal protections as other groups under the Code. The challenge now is to send a message across Ontario that discriminating against or harassing people because of their gender identity or gender expression is against the law. This policy provides the tools to do this," said OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall.
The policy addresses current issues and provides tools, practical scenarios and information that can be applied to everyday situations trans people face – for example, changing identity on official documents, transitioning, dress codes and accessing facilities. It seeks to promote recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of trans people, and create a climate of understanding and mutual respect, so that trans people feel they belong in and can contribute to society.
Furthermore, the policy offers organizations the tools to remove barriers and respect human rights, including:
- Clarification of terminology
- Information on key issues affecting the community in employment, education, services and the justice system
- Review of case law and clarity on rights and obligations
- Guidelines on how to meet the needs of trans persons and people of diverse genders, including best practices checklist.