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Minds That Matter: We made commitments, we’re making progress

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October 8, 2013

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On September 13, 2012, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) 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, and sets out 54 recommendations for government, housing providers, employers, service providers and other parties across Ontario. The OHRC also made 26 commitments in this report to address human rights issues that affect people with mental health disabilities and addictions.

A full list of OHRC commitments and recommendations is available on the OHRC website at

Since the release of Minds That Matter, we have been working hard to meet our commitments. We thought it appropriate to share the significant progress we have made on October 10, World Mental Health Day. The World Federation of Mental Health, supported by the World Health Organization, envisions World Mental Health Day as a unified global effort to promote greater public awareness and understanding of mental health issues.

This update offers an overview of the work we are involved in. We plan to report in a more comprehensive way after we launch our new human rights, mental health and addictions policy in the coming year.

Moving forward with our commitments

Consistent with commitment C1 from the report, we have notified a wide range of organizations about the Minds That Matter recommendations, and offered to help them implement the recommendations where possible.

We are currently working on about 40 mental health-related initiatives across the organization in the form of legal cases, public interest inquiries, public education and outreach initiatives. These initiatives directly relate to 19 of our 26 commitments, and also to several of the recommendations we made for other organizations. Highlights of these activities are included below.

Putting a policy in place

  • OHRC staff have taken active steps to address commitments C6, C9 and C13. Work on the new OHRC policy on human rights, mental health and addictions is well underway, with the policy slated for release in the spring of 2014.
  • Once the policy is released, the OHRC will be in a position to implement more of its commitments including C3, which involves training on the policy.

Organizational change initiatives

Working with mental health partners

  • We are currently conducting the research needed to start the large-scale, likely multi-year, organizational change initiative identified in commitment C22.
  • Collecting human rights-based data to measure disparities between Human Rights Code-protected groups in the use of seclusion, restraints and other relevant health issues, as noted in commitment C23, is expected to be a part of the organizational change process in commitment C22.

Working with police partners

  • We continue discussions with the Windsor Police Service, the Windsor Police Services Board and the Ontario Police College as part of the Human Rights Project Charter to address policing and human rights issues, including accommodation issues based on disability (commitments C4 and C24, recommendations 6, 27, 28, 45).

Working with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services

  • The Human Rights Project Charter between the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the Ministry of Government Services and the OHRC has developed and is reviewing recommendations concerning offenders with mental health needs (commitment C25).

Taking legal steps

The OHRC has been involved in several important legal cases, including ones that relate to service and housing-related commitments and recommendations:

Jahn v. Ontario (Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services)

  • The OHRC intervened in Ms. Christina Jahn’s case before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. This resulted in a landmark settlement with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
  • The settlement requires the Ministry to implement significant public interest remedies, including:
    - reviewing and reporting to the OHRC on how best to serve female inmates with mental illness
    - putting mental health screening in place for all inmates
    - making sure people who need treatment plans and mental health services have access to them
    - training front-line staff and managers on mental health issues.
  • This addresses commitments C8 and C25, as well as recommendations 6 and 29.

Lynwood Charlton Centre v. City of Hamilton

  • When the City of Hamilton refused the Lynwood Charlton Centre’s request to move its housing for eight teenage girls with mental health issues, the OHRC intervened in a successful appeal of the decision at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The OMB agreed with the OHRC’s arguments that the Centre’s proposal aims to remove land use barriers and improve accessibility to appropriate housing for persons with disabilities, which is consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) and other planning legislation.
  • The OMB also agreed that the PPS requirement that planning authorities permit and facilitate housing for special needs is a “powerful direction reflecting an important provincial policy interest.”
  • The City decided not to appeal the decision. The City will conduct “a comprehensive review of residential care facilities in the context of the Provincial Policy, as it relates to special needs, radial separation distances and the Human Rights Code.
  • This addresses commitments C8, C12 and recommendation 17.

Public interest inquiries

We continue our work to eliminate discrimination in housing by working with municipalities and challenging others. This has included looking at rental housing licensing and its potential discriminatory impact on Code-protected groups. Here are highlights of two rental housing licensing public interest inquiries the OHRC initiated that address commitments C8, C10, C11, C12 and recommendation 17.

North Bay and Waterloo Rental Housing Licensing Inquiries

  • The OHRC released reports on its inquiries into rental housing licensing in the City of North Bay (May 8, 2013) and the City of Waterloo (May 27, 2013). The reports outline what the OHRC heard during the inquiries, note positive steps each city has taken to address concerns, and also outline concerns and areas where potential human rights issues can arise.
  • These inquiry reports also include recommendations for ways that each city can advance human rights.
  • The OHRC will continue to work with the City of Waterloo on how best to address two areas of concern in its licensing bylaw – minimum separation distance requirements and per-person floor area requirements for bedrooms.
  • Building on what we learned in the inquiries and in our work on licensing with other municipalities, we published a new guide, Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensing. This guide, designed to be a companion to In the zone, our guide on human rights and municipal planning, looks at how licensing provisions in municipal bylaws may disadvantage Code-protected groups. It gives an overview of related human rights responsibilities and features promising practices from municipalities including North Bay and Waterloo.

Taking a look at methadone

In Minds that Matter, we also heard about discriminatory attitudes and behaviours toward addiction treatment centres and services used by people with mental health disabilities and addictions.

Over the past year, OHRC staff have conducted significant research showing that municipal regulation of methadone health services may create barriers for people with addictions who are trying to access those services. Methadone clients are a highly stigmatized group, and behaviours are often incorrectly attributed to them based on stereotypes about addictions.

We have contacted several municipalities including London, Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands and Tillsonburg about regulatory bylaws that can have a discriminatory impact on people with addictions, and we continue to stress the importance of using a human rights lens when making planning decisions.

We have offered to assist several municipalities and have shared relevant resources like In the zone. We will continue to research and closely monitor this issue.

This project addresses commitments C2, C4, C8, C10, C11, C12 and recommendation 17.

Public education and outreach

Since the release of Minds That Matter, the OHRC has expanded its public education and outreach activities across Ontario to raise awareness about the connection between human rights, mental health and addictions.

We have led numerous public education events with a range of stakeholders that address commitments C2, C4 and C8. Highlights include:

  • Opening Doors Train-the-Trainer partnership – Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Toronto  
    After two train-the-trainer sessions, Opening Doors has presented 14 workshops on human rights and mental health reaching a total of 140 people across Ontario in Vaughan, Belleville, Nippissing, Timmins, Bolton, Caledon, Peterborough and Guelph.
  • The Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
    – Seneca College at York University: Social Marketing Course
  • Disability Accommodation – Ministry of the Attorney General – Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility Office (commitment C18)
  • Sessions for organizations across Ontario on our Minds that Matter report

OHRC staff also did a variety of consultations and work with organizations of all sizes. Examples of this ongoing work in 2012-2013 included:

  • Meetings with CMHA, Toronto, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, Legal Aid Ontario, the Ministry of the Attorney General and Social Justice Tribunals Ontario to explore opportunities to share experience and expertise in mental health-related training to improve internal core competency and service delivery to persons with mental health disabilities in Ontario (commitments C1, C2, C8, C26).
  • Provided input for the second time on the review of the Provincial Policy Statement, which outlines expectations and provides guidance to municipalities on the Planning Act. While the PPS still lacks overall recognition of human rights and does not state how land use planning can result in discrimination against Code-protected groups, we were pleased to see proposed amendments in the PPS that respond to our original comments, along with other amendments that advance human rights protections (commitments C2, C11).

Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall met with many organizations and groups across the province about human rights, mental health and addictions. Some highlights:

  • Minds That Matter launches in North Bay, Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor
  • Taking it local: A municipal update on human rights – Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD), City of Thunder Bay, OHRC on September 24, 2013 (commitments C11, C14)
  • Human rights and mental health – Canadian Mental Health Association, Brant County
  • Racialized Persons with Disabilities – ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Law Society of Upper Canada
  • Minds That Matter: human rights, mental health and addictions – Kitty Lundy Memorial Lecture, Toronto
  • In the zone: Housing, human rights and municipal planning, Thunder Bay, Midland (commitments C10, C14)

Building the benefits of social media

The OHRC’s social media presence continues to grow steadily and has helped us to:

  • Spot and track emerging issues (commitment C8)
    - An example is the extensive Twitter traffic during the Lynwood Charlton Centre case at the Ontario Municipal Board
  • Engage in discussions relating to human rights, mental health and addiction issues
    - For example, Live Chat: Mental Health Mondays, The Agenda (commitment C2)
  • Build and maintain relationships with people in communities throughout Ontario
  • Share information about what we do and connect with people doing related work.