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Reflecting on retirement homes

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We often refer to our retirement years as our “golden” years. But there is nothing golden for many older Ontarians who are afraid of the people they rely on for care, who are not sure if their pension cheques will cover their next month’s rent, or who don’t have any way to complain when human rights issues arise at their retirement home.

That’s why we were pleased to see the Seniors’ Secretariat working to put in place – for the very first time in Ontario – a system to help remove the risk of substandard care or abuse, and to enhance the quality of life of vulnerable people living in retirement homes across the province.

In May 2010, the OHRC made a written submission and Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall appeared before the Standing Committee on Social Policy to comment on Bill 21, an Act to regulate retirement homes.

We made several recommendations on how the Bill could be amended to enhance the ability of retirement home providers to meet their obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code. These included:

  • Requiring retirement home providers to develop human rights policies and complaint procedures, including procedures on the duty to accommodate, which should include a focus on protecting the rights of people with mental health disabilities and dementia
  • Making staff training on these policies and procedures mandatory
  • Amending the Residents' Bill of Rights to reflect the duty to accommodate people's Code-related needs to the point of undue hardship
  • Carefully considering the impact of fees on the ability of people with low incomes to get the housing and services they need in retirement homes
  • Putting stronger safeguards in place related to restraint and confinement, including outlining people's rights of review and expanding how advice on rights is provided
  • Consulting the OHRC when screening procedures for staff and volunteers are developed, to make sure that the requirements for police background checks will not have an adverse effect on people who have been apprehended under the Mental Health Act.

This Act has now been passed. We are monitoring the next steps, which include putting regulations in place to support the new law.

June 2001, the Commission released its Consultation Report, Time for Action: Advancing Human Rights for Older Ontarians. This helped bring about the end of mandatory retirement in Ontario.

In recognition of the fact that laws by themselves will not put an end to discrimination, the Ontario anti-discrimination commission was established in 1959 with the task of developing and conducting a provincewide programme of education. - Hon. Leslie Frost in the Ontario Legislature, February 14, 1961


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