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Letter to the City of London on Zoning By-law Amendment number Z-8063 (methadone clinic)

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May 22, 2013

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Sent: May 13, 2013
VIA Email and Canada Post

Mayor Joe Fontana
London City Hall
300 Dufferin Avenue, P.O. Box 5035
London, ON N6A 4L9

Your Worship,

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (“the OHRC”) understands that, on October 31, 2012, City Council approved zoning by-law amendment number Z-8063, permitting a methadone clinic to be established under certain conditions at 425 Wharncliffe Road. The OHRC further understands that, while Council approved this amendment, it applied a holding provision which required a public site plan meeting be held. The site plan process was meant to address – among other things:

fencing, made of high quality and lasting materials, to avoid any opportunity for pedestrian movement from the subject site to adjacent sites

The OHRC understands that a public site plan meeting was held by the Planning and Environment Committee on May 7, 2013. Prior to this meeting, city staff presented a report to the Committee, indicating that:

The existing fencing along the north & west boundaries is 1.8 m chain link (minimum) & should adequately discourage users of the property from easily traversing between adjacent sites. Staff believe that a new 1.8 m chain link fence along the south property line will more adequately implement Council’s Resolution than the existing 1.2 m chain link fence that the applicant is proposing to reuse.

Staff have requested that all armour stone proposed in front of the building be removed as it is conducive to sitting and congregating which is not the intent of this space. …

According to the Planning and Environment Committee minutes for that May 7, 2013 meeting, the Committee decided to recommend:

the north and south fences are to be constructed of wrought iron, the existing interior chain link fence be retained… [emphasis added]

Also according to the minutes, the Applicant’s planning consultant stated, among other things, that:

  • four foot [approximately 1.2 metre] fence is the standard that the City uses
  • it has not been the practice of the City to require fences between commercial properties in a corridor like Wharncliffe Road South
  • it is unclear what the purposes of the fences on the north and south sides of this property would actually serve because he does not believe that this City would require different treatment for people suffering from addictions than for any other of its citizens.

The OHRC understands that Council will consider the Committee’s recommendations at a meeting on Tuesday May 14th.  We urge Council to use a human rights lens while considering these recommendations, and ask

  • Is an additional burden being placed on a facility because of the people it serves?
  • Are site plan recommendations being raised because of assumptions regarding behaviour of the intended users?

Methadone clients are a highly stigmatized group. Behaviours are sometimes attributed to them based on stereotypes about addictions.  It is important to avoid using stereotypes about people who use methadone, such as their being undesirable, prone to criminal behaviour, or not part of the community.

We encourage the City of London to take all steps possible to promote services that are inclusive for all groups protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code.


Barbara Hall B.A, LL.B, Ph.D (hon.)
Chief Commissioner