Human rights law and policy

International, federal and provincial human rights legislation prohibit discrimination against persons with mental health disabilities.[3] In Ontario, human rights protections for people with mental health disabilities and addictions are grounded in the Ontario Human Rights Code. People with mental health issues are covered under the ground of “disability” in the Code. People with mental health disabilities and addictions are protected from discrimination and harassment in the areas of employment, accommodation (housing), goods, services and facilities, contracts, and membership in trade, union or occupational associations. This includes people who have a disability or are believed to have or have had a disability [section 10(3)].

The OHRC’s Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate (Policy) sets out guiding principles on disability and the duty to accommodate, which can be applied to employment, services, housing and other social areas. The Policy explicitly recognizes the unique challenges faced by people with non-evident disabilities, such as mental health disabilities. It follows the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions that make it clear that discrimination because of disability may be based on myths, perceptions and stereotypes as well as actual functional limitations.[4]


[3] For example, Canada has signed the Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons, and the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The latter is a legally binding convention that provides for non-discrimination to allow for the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of people with disabilities. In addition, the international community has adopted the UN General Assembly resolution, Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the Improvement of Mental Health Care. Domestically, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms outlines equality protections under section 15, which provides for the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of mental and physical disability, among other grounds.
[4]8attlefords and District Co-operative Ltd. v. Gibbs, [1996J 3 S.C.R. 566. para. 31.; Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de jeuness) v. Montreal (City); Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de las jeuness) v. Boisbriand (City) (3 May 2000) SCC 27. [Mercier}, para.77