In 2009, to establish a plan to address systemic discrimination based on mental health, the OHRC developed and released a consultation paper, received written submissions and conducted in-depth interviews. This feedback led the OHRC to hold a consultation to develop a policy on human rights and mental health. The policy consultation took place over several months in 2010 and 2011. It included interviews, focus groups, round-table sessions (in Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa and North Bay), a call for written submissions and an online and mail-in survey. We received approximately 1,500 verbal and written submissions from individuals and organizations, including people with mental health disabilities or addictions, advocates, housing providers, families, service providers and employers. This report also reflects the submissions that we received in 2009.
We received more submissions during this consultation than in any other OHRC policy consultation completed to date. We especially acknowledge the contribution of more than 1,000 people who identified themselves as having mental health issues or addictions, and the work that community organizations did to help us gather information from the people they serve.
Although large numbers of people and organizations came forward to express their experiences, many were reluctant to disclose their identities due to concerns about negative attitudes and stereotypes. As a result, we invited individuals and some organizations to make oral or written submissions anonymously. The Appendix includes a list of organizations that made written submissions.
Some perspectives were not as well represented as others. Although the OHRC held extra sessions to ensure adequate representation of employers, service providers and social and private housing providers, employers as a group were underrepresented compared to other organizations. In addition, in response to our questions, participants came forward with their perceptions of discriminatory treatment. Only a minority of participants described having no concerns about discrimination. Finally, while consultees’ concerns are described in this report, we often were not able to report a response to these concerns.
This report includes quotes and narratives from individuals as well as from organizations. Many quotes are from people with mental health disabilities or addictions.
We are aware that using narratives can be a contentious issue. Personal narratives of consumer/survivors and people with addictions have been exploited, “sanitized,” sensationalized and used to advance organizations’ agendas. We tried to avoid doing this by ensuring that people knew how their submissions would be used and making them anonymous. We have interpreted these using a human rights lens. We wanted to reflect people’s perspectives in their own voices, as this can be a powerful educational tool.
As we move forward with our work, we look forward to hearing how people’s perspectives can be represented in a way that continues to respect people’s dignity and human rights.
3.1. Recommendations and OHRC commitments
Eliminating discrimination requires many people and organizations to take part. We urge government, public sector and private sector organizations to act now to eliminate the human rights concerns identified. The recommendations are not exhaustive. There is no doubt that much more can be done to ensure that the shift in thinking about mental health results in real human rights change.
The OHRC will provide support and guidance to help organizations fulfill the recommendations made. Sometimes it was not immediately clear what recommendations would be appropriate to address the concerns from a systemic perspective. However, even where the OHRC does not make particular recommendations or commitments following a specific section of the report, organizations and individuals should assess their own practices and work toward inclusion for people with psychosocial disabilities. This can also help to avoid potential human rights claims.
The OHRC also makes its own commitments for action. Recommendations and commitments were based on:
- Feedback and recommendations from consultees
- If the Code or other human rights instruments (e.g. the CRPD) clearly apply to the concerns
- Whether the recommendations or commitments build on the OHRC’s existing work
- Whether the concerns raise emerging and complex human rights issues, or issues where there was “glaring unfairness”
- The organizations that the OHRC believes to be well-placed to address these concerns (whether it is the OHRC or other parties)
- The understanding that in some cases, more research may be needed to clearly understand if the concerns violate the Code, or multiple perspectives need to be considered before acting on the issue.
C1. The OHRC will notify the organizations about the recommendations it has made, and offer to assist in implementing these, where possible.
 See Lucy Costa, Jijian Voronka, Danielle Landry, Jenna Reid, Becky McFarlane, David Reville & Kathryn Church, "Recovering our Stories: A Small Act of Resistance" Studies in Social Justice [forthcoming in Autumn 2012]; Kathryn Church, “In Whose Interests? Querying the Use of Stories in Narrative Research (Panel presentation given to "Recovering Our Stories: How Psychiatric Survivors Can Use Our Stories to Change the World", Ryerson University) (Toronto, 28 June 2011).