Areas for further research

More information on the lives of people with mental health and addiction disabilities could be collected on other variables. For example, contact with the criminal justice system is an important indicator of marginalization and social exclusion.[42] Similarly, knowing what proportion of this group live in collective dwellings (such as hospitals, group homes and lodging houses) or are homeless across Ontario would provide a better understanding of their housing needs.  

Also, without data on Indigenous peoples who live on reserves, a complete picture cannot be created of the lives of Indigenous peoples with mental health, addiction and other disabilities.

The results on low income merit more specific research to better understand the relationship between mental health and low income. People with disabilities overall are more likely to be in low income status than people without disabilities, due to their lower labour force participation.[43] However, when controlling for disability type, mental health and addiction disabilities appear to be highly correlated with being in low income and other disabilities less so. In fact, the results show that a lower proportion of people with other disabilities are in low income status than people without disabilities. This trend has been noted in other Statistics Canada data[44] but requires further examination.

The finding that racialized people in Ontario report lower prevalence of mental health and addiction disabilities compared to non-racialized people and Indigenous peoples needs further examination. It appears to contrast with research that finds that structural barriers such as poverty, low-socioeconomic status, inadequate and unaffordable housing, unemployment and underemployment disproportionately affect racialized people. These factors also negatively affect mental health.[45] Several studies have also found that self-reported racism is associated with negative mental health outcomes.[46]  

Another area of research involves further data collection to monitor discrimination, including people’s perceptions of discrimination in Code-protected social areas such as housing and services. Additional questions could be asked about the types of discrimination people experience, factors that can protect people against discrimination, and how people access justice. For example, how commonly do people with mental health disabilities and addictions experience harassment? Are there intersections between discrimination based on a person’s disability and another Code-related identity, such as race or sex? What factors make it easier to disclose a disability and request accommodation? How do people typically seek redress (if at all) when they have been discriminated against?

Note that documenting people’s perceptions of discrimination is limited in that it cannot lead to conclusions about actual incidence rates of discrimination. Measuring discrimination is very difficult, as it can be explained by multiple factors. Studies that may be able to better monitor discrimination use methods that look at people’s behaviour in real-life or constructed situations to assess whether groups are treated differently based on Code grounds.[47]

Overall, the findings in this report have implications for policy and research involving Ontarians with mental health, addiction and other disabilities. They provide support for further research on disparities and solutions. They also provide a supportive rationale for organizations to put in place methods to prevent and respond to systemic discrimination. These methods include reviewing and removing barriers, incorporating inclusive design approaches, developing human rights policies and designing special programs (such as hiring and housing programs) that respond to the unique needs of people with mental health, addiction and other disabilities.

[42]The Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health, 2012, has collected data on contact with police, such as arrests, but not criminal convictions or incarceration. Statistics Canada, 2011, Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) – Mental Health Questionnaire. Online: Statistics Canada (retrieved May 27, 2015) at 178. See also Maire Sinha, An Investigation into the Feasibility of Collecting Data on the Involvement of Adults and Youth with Mental Health Issues in the Criminal Justice System. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-561-M — No. 016. Ottawa: Ontario. Crime and Justice Research Paper Series, 85-561-M, Vol. 2009 no. 16. Online: Statistics Canada (retrieved May 27, 2015).

[43] See Diane Galarneau & Marian Radulescu, “Employment among the Disabled” (2009) 10(5) Perspectives on Labour and Income. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 75-001-X. Online: Statistics Canada (retrieved April 2, 2015).

[44] Statistics Canada data from the 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) custom tabulated for the OHRC show that 27% of people in Ontario with “emotional” disabilities” live in low income status compared to people with other types of disabilities (10%) and people who did not report having disabilities (11%). Statistics Canada. 2012. Special tabulation, based on Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, 2006.

[45] For a review of the literature on the effect of societal barriers on the physical and mental health of racialized people, see Access Alliance Multicultural Community Health Centre, Racialised Groups and Health Status: A Literature Review Exploring Poverty, Housing, Race-Based Discrimination and Access to Health Care as Determinants of Health for Racialised Groups  (Toronto: Access Alliance Multicultural Community Health Centre, 2005) online: Access Alliance Multicultural Community Health Centre (retrieved July 8, 2015). See also Sheryl Nestel, Colour Coded Health Care The Impact of Race and Racism on Canadians’ Health (Toronto: Wellesley Institute, 2012), online: Wellesley Institute (retrieved July 8, 2015) at 14; and Kwasi Kafele,  Racial discrimination and mental health in racialized and Aboriginal communities (2005), online: Ontario Human Rights Commission (retrieved July 8, 2015).

[46] Yin Paradies, “A systematic review of empirical research on self-reported racism and health” (2006) 35 Int J  Epidemiology 888.

[47] One example of such a study is by the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation. It looked at how subtle and direct discrimination play out in the Toronto housing market. Volunteers did a telephone audit to apply for real rental vacancies. They used a series of scripts based on “profiles” that paired all characteristics except for the one that might lead to discrimination. For the mental disability profile, volunteers pretended they were from a mental health agency trying to find housing for their clients. Overall, the study showed that more than one-third of housing seekers with mental disabilities were discriminated against in the Toronto housing market. See Sorry It’s Rented: Measuring Discrimination in Toronto’s Rental Housing Market (2009) online: (retrieved April 6, 2015). Another example involves the statistical analysis of data that record the actions of individuals (such as data on traffic stops), to see if there are disproportionate impacts on groups based on Code grounds.