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Municipalities have to consider the needs of everyone - including people with disabilities or on social assistance - when making bylaws. The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) made that ruling late last week, saying “municipalities – and this Board – are bound by the [Human Rights] Code”.
Two bylaws stopped new non-profit and supportive housing from being built in the Cedar Hill neighbourhood in downtown Kitchener. The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and other groups objected and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) argued in a submission to the OMB that the Board had to follow the Code.
“The OMB said the City of Kitchener did not look at the impacts of their actions when it decided to pass these bylaws,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall. “People with disabilities or on social assistance were the targets; they were told, in effect ‘we don’t want more people like you in this neighbourhood’. The Human Rights Code says you can’t discriminate like that”.
The City of Kitchener has been sent back to the drawing board to redraft the two bylaws as well as an amendment to the City’s Official Plan.
“Using bylaws to keep some people out of neighbourhoods is wrong; zoning is for buildings, not for people”, said Barbara Hall. “Municipalities should be working to improve accessibility for people with disabilities – not making it harder for them to find places to live.”
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