Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission continued to work towards a human rights culture in the province during a year of transition, according to the Commission’s Annual Report for 2008-09, released today.
Toronto - Recent settlements of complaints with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing show an emerging commitment to human rights, the Ontario Human Rights Commission reports. The settlements follow the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Tranchemontagne v. the Ministry of Community and Social Services. In that decision, the Court told the Social Benefits Tribunal to apply the Code to resolve the issue before it. The Supreme Court stressed the primacy of the Code over other Ontario laws, unless the legislation governing the body expressly states that the Code will not prevail.
At every step of the consultation, people shared their experiences, feelings and insights. These personal perspectives play a key role whenever human rights issues are considered. Each story offers one person’s glimpse of a larger issue affecting people across Ontario.
NIMBY opposition to affordable housing development was a major human rights issue raised by consultees, including both tenant advocates and housing providers. People should not have to ask permission from anyone, including prospective neighbours, before moving in just because of stereotypes relating to grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code). Concerns about affordable housing projects should be legitimately anchored in planning issues rather than stereotypical assumptions about the people who will be housed.
In May 2007, the Commission initiated a public consultation with the launch of background and consultation papers both entitled Human Rights and Rental Housing in Ontario. Beginning in June 2007, the Commission held public and private meetings in four cities across the province to hear about the extent of the problems and to identify potential solutions. Around 130 organizations and an additional 24 individuals participated in afternoon consultation meetings in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Sudbury and Toronto, and over 100 people participated in evening sessions in these locations.
Canada has recognized that adequate housing is a fundamental human right in international instruments such as the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Canada has also agreed to take appropriate steps towards realizing the right to adequate housing.
Most landlords and housing providers try to comply with the Ontario Human Rights Code and work hard to meet the needs of their tenants. However, for some tenants, discrimination in housing is not an unusual occurrence. The lack of affordable and adequate housing, when combined with overt and subtle discrimination in housing, means that many people protected by the Code are excluded from the housing market, forced to pay higher rents than they can actually afford, or relegated to poor quality housing options.