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OHRC releases consultation report on human rights, mental health and addictions

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September 13, 2012

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Toronto – The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) today released Minds that matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions. This report outlines what the OHRC heard in its largest-ever policy consultation across Ontario, and sets out a number of key recommendations and OHRC commitments to address human rights issues that affect people with mental health disabilities or addictions.

The OHRC heard about widespread discrimination in housing, employment and services. It heard that stereotypes and negative societal perceptions about people with psychiatric and addiction disabilities are embedded in institutional policies and practices, individual attitudes and some types of legislation. The OHRC also found that many organizations do not appear to understand how to meet their responsibilities under the Human Rights Code to prevent and respond to this discrimination.

Similarly, many people with mental health or addiction issues were not aware of how the Human Rights Code protects them from discrimination based on disability. We also heard that people have great difficulty enforcing their human rights. 

Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall said, “Upholding the human rights of people with mental health disabilities or addictions is a good thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. In Ontario, it is also the required thing to do – it’s the law.”

The OHRC also heard how societal factors create the conditions for discriminating against or excluding people with mental health issues or addictions. Poverty was a clear theme in people’s lives. People with mental health issues or addictions in Ontario are much more likely to have low incomes than people with other types of disabilities or without disabilities. The OHRC heard that having a low income contributes to even more barriers to housing, services and job opportunities.

This report was written to reflect the experiences and perspectives of hundreds of people with mental health or addiction disabilities, as well as the viewpoints of employers, housing and service providers, advocates and other groups. Overcoming discriminatory barriers requires the concerted efforts of law-makers, policy makers, and all levels of public and private institutions.

"When we consult directly with the people most affected by the issues, the impact is deeply personal," said Sheldon Levy, President of Ryerson University. "Social justice and inclusion are fundamental principles, and the OHRC is taking leadership in engaging all of us to work together for change."

The report contains 54 recommendations for government and organizations across Ontario. For example, the OHRC recommends that municipalities across Ontario review their zoning and housing licensing bylaws to make sure they do not treat housing for people with mental health issues or addictions any differently than other types of housing. The OHRC also calls for the Government of Ontario to address its obligations under the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with psychosocial disabilities.

Minds that matter also sets out 26 commitments that the OHRC is making to advance human rights for persons with mental health disabilities or addictions. One commitment is to create a policy on human rights, mental health and addictions that will offer concrete steps people and organizations across Ontario can take to prevent and eliminate barriers that are so common today. Also, the OHRC will invite a psychiatric institution, as well as other partners with human rights expertise in mental health, including consumer/survivor organizations, to take part in a large-scale organizational change process to address any human rights concerns in the way they deliver service.

The OHRC received over 1,500 verbal and written submissions from across Ontario – but the job is not yet done. To help with developing its policy, the OHRC wants to hear feedback on the consultation report. Individuals and organizations are invited to provide their comments in writing by November 9, 2012. For more information, see the OHRC’s website at  


For more information:

Pascale Demers
Communications Officer
Ontario Human Rights Commission