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Over the past two years, hundreds of human rights complaints were made that the Special Diet Allowance for people on Ontario Works Assistance or the Ontario Disability Support Program was discriminatory because it excluded some disabilities and allowed not enough money for others. To deal with this large volume of cases, the Tribunal decided to hear three “lead” cases and to apply the lessons learned to the other cases.

In its decision in February 2010, the Tribunal found that the program discriminated against the complainants by excluding certain medical conditions and providing relatively unequal amounts for other conditions.

The Tribunal found that “W” was discriminated against because the government did not provide funding for hypoproteinemia, and that funding was inadequate for high blood pressure/cholesterol diets. “S” was discriminated against by not getting enough funding for an obesity diet, and “B” did not receive enough funding for a diet to battle high cholesterol.

The Tribunal ordered retroactive benefits for the three complainants from the date that they would have been eligible for them if the discrimination had not happened. The Tribunal also ordered the government to provide special diet benefits for people with hypoproteinemia, hyperlipidemia, hypertension and obesity within three months of the decision.

This decision is facing a court challenge, and the Province has proposed to eliminate the program and begin a new one through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. In the meantime, the OHRC and various partners continue to negotiate with the Province to move forward with the other special diet cases.

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