VIA Email and Regular Mail August 6, 2015
Councillor Bill Marra
Chair, Planning, Heritage & Economic Development Standing Committee.
350 City Hall Square West,
Dear Chair and Committee Members,
I am writing to comment on proposed amendments to the City’s Official Plan and Zoning Bylaws in regard to methadone clinics.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has been in contact with the City since 2013 and raised concerns about the human rights implications of restrictive zoning regulations for methadone clinics. The OHRC is mandated to identify and promote the elimination of discriminatory practices and to protect human rights in Ontario. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), we are empowered to initiate inquiries into human rights matters, intervene in human rights applications and initiate human rights applications in the public interest.
Any regulations that municipalities choose to impose on methadone clinics and dispensaries are subject to section 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), which prohibits discrimination in services against people with disabilities, including addictions. The OHRC has advised municipalities that they:
- must not discriminate against people with addictions. If regulations target or have an adverse impact on people with addictions, those regulations are discriminatory and contrary to the Code, unless they were adopted in good faith and are necessary to accomplish a legitimate planning purpose;
- must accommodate the needs of people with addictions, short of undue hardship.
These requirements are consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Meiorin [British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. BCGSEU,  3 S.C.R. 3]. They were set out by the Ontario Municipal Board in Kitchener (City) Official Plan Amendment No. 58,  O.M.B.D. No. 666, 64 O.M.B.R. 283. The OMB stated that:
A municipality which sought to justify the imposition of a discriminatory standard/requirement/policy might be expected to establish that it made real and meaningful efforts to accommodate the needs of persons adversely affected by the standard/requirement/policy, or sought less discriminatory approaches to achieving the objective. It might also be expected to establish, on a substantive level, that it is not possible to accommodate, short of undue hardship.
While mental health disabilities are commonplace in our communities, people with these disabilities (including addictions) face individual and institutional barriers that limit their participation in society. These barriers result primarily from negative attitudes and stereotypes about mental illness, and contribute to experiences of systemic inequality, including lack of access to appropriate treatment and support services. Discrimination can compound the effects of living with addiction disabilities by making it harder to seek treatment, triggering or making the disability worse, and making it harder to recover by limiting available supports.
As noted in our previous communication to the City, the provincial government has recently emphasized the importance of human rights within planning. Section 4.6 of the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) under the Planning Act states that the PPS shall be implemented in a way that is consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are encouraged to see that the administrative report before you aims to make the regulation of methadone services in Windsor consistent with the 2014 PPS.
We therefore support the inclusion of methadone clinics under the definition of “Medical Office,” as was the case prior to 2011. We also support removing any zoning or licensing requirements that restrict locations of clinics and pharmacies so that people who use these services do not experience any adverse impact discrimination.
For further discussion of human rights and planning issues related to methadone clinics, please contact Delna Karanjia at 416-314-4542 or via email at Delna.Karanjia@ohrc.on.ca.
[Original signed by]
Ruth Goba, Hon. BA, LLB
Interim Chief Commissioner
Ontario Human Rights Commission
c.c: Mayor Drew Dilkens