On November 11, 2015, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) filed its own application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) alleging discrimination in employment based on disability because of the Toronto Police Service’s (TPS) failure to include on its Memorial Wall officers who end their lives as a result of a mental health disability incurred in the line of duty.
In recent years, there has been growing public awareness that the official duties of police officers can lead to serious mental health disabilities including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and in some cases, death by suicide.
The OHRC’s application asks the Tribunal to direct the TPS to change its practices and include the names of individuals who lose their lives from mental health injuries incurred in the line of duty on the Memorial Wall. This would ensure that they are treated with the same degree of recognition and respect as officers who lose their lives by reason of physical injury in the line of duty. The OHRC is expecting other police services that maintain memorial walls to do the same.
A more inclusive Memorial Wall would recognize that the challenges of policing can take a toll on mental health, and would signal to current officers coping with mental health issues that they are visible and can seek support without being stigmatized.
An earlier Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario decision dismissed an application related to inclusion on the Memorial Wall filed by the estate of Staff Sergeant Edward Adamson, in which the OHRC intervened. In that decision the Tribunal found the estate had no standing to start the application. The Tribunal also denied a reconsideration of its decision. Because of this, the OHRC decided to use its power under the Ontario Human Rights Code to initiate an application.
The OHRC has been engaged for some time with the broader problems of discrimination, a culture of stigma and lack of supports for people with mental health disabilities. In 2012, the OHRC released Minds that Matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions, followed in 2014 with its Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions.
For more information:
Senior Communications Officer
Ontario Human Rights Commission