2. Methodology

To prepare this report, the OHRC worked with Statistics Canada to identify the appropriate variables from different surveys. The OHRC received customized data tables, based on the methodology and analysis used by Statistics Canada.

2.1. Data sources

Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012 (CSD):

The primary data source for this report was the CSD, a post-census survey conducted in 2012. The CSD is based on a nationwide sample of people with disabilities, aged 15 years and older, who were living in Canada at the time of the National Household Survey (NHS) (May 10, 2011) and reported on the NHS[4] an activity limitation associated with a physical or mental condition or health problem. The total sample size for the CSD was 45,443 people.[5]

The CSD uses disability screening questions to ask Canadian adults how often their daily activities are limited by long-term conditions, health problems and task-based difficulties.[6] It asks questions about people’s sources of income, specific limitations, needs (such as for assistive devices or accommodation) and experiences in several areas, including daily life, the workplace, education, workplace training and getting around the community. It also asks questions relating to workplace discrimination.

Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, 2006 (PALS):  

Because the necessary variables to measure “core housing need” were not available from the CSD at the time, data from the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, 2006 (PALS)[7] is used in section 3.3.2. The PALS was a national post-census survey, which used the 2006 Census as a sampling frame to identify people with disabilities. The PALS collected information about children and adults whose “daily activities are limited by a physical, mental or other health-related condition or problem.”[8]  

Note that results from the PALS cannot be compared to the results from the CSD.[9]

2.2. Terminology

Mental health and addiction disabilities are characterized differently under the Code and the CSD.

The Code defines “disability” broadly under section 10(1)and covers mental health disabilities under subsection (b) a “condition of mental impairment” and (d) “mental disorder.” The OHRC takes an expansive and flexible approach to defining mental health disabilities and addictions that are protected by the Code. The Code does not list all the conditions that could be considered a disability. However, many mental health and addiction impairments are well-recognized as “disabilities” that are protected by human rights law.[10]

In the CSD, people were identified as having a disability if they had “difficulty performing tasks as a result of a long-term condition or health-related problem and experienced a limitation in their daily activities.”[11] The CSD uses the term “mental/psychological disability” to refer to people with both mental health disabilities and addictions. People with mental/psychological disabilities are considered to be people who report an emotional, psychological or mental health condition that is expected to last for six months or more. These may include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, anorexia and other mental health and addiction disabilities.

Disabilities other than mental health and addiction disabilities are collapsed into one group for comparison in this report. Other types of disabilities identified in the CSD are seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain, learning, developmental and memory disabilities.

Throughout this report, the term “mental health and addiction disabilities” will be used in the text, and the term “mental/psychological disability” will be used in the tables and graphs. People with disabilities that are not mental health or addiction disabilities will be called “people with other disabilities.”

2.3. Limitations

The CSD only surveyed persons living in private dwellings in Canada. Not included in the survey were people living on a First Nations reserve, children under age 15, and people who were institutionalized or living in collective dwellings, such as some older people.[12] Similarly, people with psychiatric disabilities who were institutionalized, living in group homes or lodging houses were not included in the sample. Also, the limitations in the questions used to screen people into the CSD means that the number of people who report mental health and addiction disabilities is likely underestimated.[13]

The sample size of people with disabilities and people with mental health and addiction disabilities is low in the CSD. As a result, it was necessary to combine some categories of analysis or drop some measures for privacy reasons. In addition, some estimates could not be reported due to Statistics Canada’s data suppression rules around small sample sizes that protect the privacy of the individuals surveyed.

The category “mental/psychological disability” groups together several different mental health and addiction disabilities. The category “other disabilities” also groups together a broad range of disabilities, including mobility, pain, sensory and cognitive disabilities. The OHRC cannot make conclusions about the outcomes of people with any one disability on the social and economic indicators. Indeed, the OHRC recognizes that the experiences reported on the survey may differ significantly for particular groups based on the type of disability reported by the individuals.  

There are many ways to interpret and explain these findings. Without additional information, it is difficult to definitively conclude that the reason behind these disparities is discrimination. However, the results do point to areas that can be examined further.

2.4. Analysis

In this report, proportions are used to compare the situation of people with mental health and addiction disabilities to people with other disabilities and people without disabilities on several different indicators and measures.[14] Select comparisons between people in Ontario and people across Canada are also made (Canada includes Ontario). By so doing, statistically significant differences between groups can give an indication of whether inequality exists.

The purpose of using comparisons between people with mental health and addiction disabilities and people with other disabilities is not to minimize the experience of any group or set up a “hierarchy of oppression” based on disability. Rather, it is to show where gaps exist and to understand the unique societal barriers facing people who report mental health and addiction disabilities.

The coefficient of variation (CV) was used to determine reliability of the data.[15] Statistical tests were run on all comparisons to determine if differences in proportions were significant at the 0.05 level. Where differences are not significant, this is noted as a legend in the table. In addition, missing values were removed from the analysis when appropriate.


[4] The NHS is a nationwide voluntary survey, sent to 4.5 million households. It asks questions about social and economic factors, including language, income, immigration, work, labour, commuting, religion and others. Approximately 200 NHS variables were linked to the CSD analytical files, both for persons with a disability and for persons without a disability. Statistics Canada, no date. NHS Profile, 2011 – About the data. Last updated May 9, 2014. Online: Statistics Canada www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/dp-pd/prof/help-aide/aboutdata-aproposdonnees.cfm?Lang=E (Retrieved April 21, 2015).

[5] Statistics Canada, no date. Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD)Last updated August 23, 2012. online: Statistics Canada www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p2SV.pl?Function=getSurvey&SDDS=3251#a2 (retrieved May 9, 2014).

[6] Statistics Canada, Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012: Concepts and Methods Guide (2014) Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 89-654-X — No. 2014001. Ottawa, Ontario. Online: Statistics Canada www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2014001-eng.htm (retrieved April 21, 2015) at 7.

[7] See the glossary for a definition of “core housing need.”

[8] Statistics Canada, Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2006, Tables (Part VI) (2010) Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 89-628-X — No. 015. Ottawa, Ontario. online: Statistics Canada www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-628-x/89-628-x2010015-eng.htm (retrieved May 29, 2014).

[9] The CSD disability screening questions represent a social model of disability, rather than a medical model. This is in accordance with Article 31 of the CRPD. Statistics Canada describes the social model:

The social model is based on the premise that disability is the result of the interaction between a person’s functional limitations and barriers in the environment, including social and physical barriers that make it harder to function day-to-day. Thus, disability is a social disadvantage that an unsupportive environment imposes on top of an individual’s impairment.

(Mackenzie, Andrew, Matt Hurst and Susan Crompton (2009). Living with disability series, Defining disability in the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, Canadian Social Trends, 2009/12. Statistics Canada catalogue no. 11-008-X as cited in Statistics Canada, Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012: Concepts and Methods Guidesupra note 6 at 5). For more information on the disability screening questions, see Statistics Canada, Concepts and Methods Guide, supra note 6 at 7.

[10] Many impairments have been recognized as disabilities under the Code, including anxiety, panic attacks, depression, schizophrenia, alcohol dependence, and addictions to illegal drugs. For more information, see Ontario Human Rights Commission, Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions (Toronto: Government of Ontario, 2014) online: OHRC www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-preventing-discrimination-based-mental-health-disabilities-and-addictions.

[11] Statistics Canada, “Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012.” The Daily. December 3, 2013. Statistics Canada Catalogue Number 89-654-X. online: Statistics Canada www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/131203/dq131203a-eng.htm (retrieved May 26, 2014).  

[12] Statistics Canada, Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012: Concepts and Methods Guidesupra note 6 at 5.

[13] See Statistics Canada, no date. The 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) and the 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS). Last updated November 29, 2013. Online: Statistics Canada www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb-bmdi/document/3251_D6_T9_V1-eng.htm, (retrieved September 2, 2014): “While the CSD and the [Disability Screening Questions] are considered to be a big step forward in improving the measurement of disability using the social model, it should be noted that the CSD sample was pre-filtered using the same filter questions on the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) as those used on the 2006 Census long form for the PALS. Follow up studies have shown that these filter questions do not adequately identify people with mental/psychological or cognitive disabilities. This means that the CSD continues to have some of the weaknesses that the PALS had with respect to undercoverage of some disability types.”

[14] People who reported experiencing both a mental health or addiction disability and one or more other disability type(s) were considered to have a mental health and addiction disability.

[15] The following values are used:

  • When the CV is greater than 33.3%, the results are considered unacceptable and not published. It is indicated by an F.
  • When the CV is greater than 16.5% and less than or equal to 33.3%, the results are considered poor and must be used with caution. It is indicated with an E.
  • When the CV is 16.5% or less, the results are considered "acceptable" and are published without restrictions.