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Discussion paper: Discrimination and age - Human rights issues facing older persons in Ontario

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Approved by the Commission: May 31, 2000

Executive Summary

The purpose of this Discussion Paper is to identify trends and critical issues related to age, and to make policy and related recommendations to promote the human rights of older persons.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission's discussion paper was initiated in 1999 following designation of the UN International Year of Older Persons. The issues canvassed in this paper relate primarily to:

  • Employment for persons aged 45 to 65 and over;
  • Housing for persons 55 and over; and
  • Services and facilities for persons over 65 years of age.

As with other forms of discrimination, the main barriers faced by older persons are attitudinal, but several important distinctions exist between age and other grounds. The first is that certain forms of age discrimination, notably those related to mandatory retirement and the restriction of human rights protections above a certain age, are generally considered acceptable. While certain aspects of the differential treatment may be reasonable and bona fide, others are not and are based on precisely the sorts of stereotypes that human rights law is designed to prevent. The second distinction is that discrimination against older persons appears not to generate the same degree of moral outrage as other forms of discrimination. This may in part be related to the first issue, but is also linked to long-held beliefs and assumptions about the value and worth of older persons.

This paper reviews the compelling demographic and social trends that militate in favour of significant changes to many of these attitudes and practices. The proposed strategies focus on areas where these attitudes or practices unfairly diminish access to social goods at a time of life when they may be most needed. These are especially evident in the areas of employment, housing and in goods, services and facilities.

The final section contains recommendations related to policy and operational options.





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