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New OHRC Policy addresses human rights for people with mental health or addiction disabilities

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June 18, 2014

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For immediate release

Toronto – A new policy, released today, aims to provide user-friendly guidance on how to define, assess, handle and resolve human rights issues related to mental health and addiction disabilities. The Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions was released by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

People with mental health disabilities or addictions continue to face considerable discrimination, stigma and social exclusion in Canada. Many people experience adverse treatment, negative attitudes and harassment in employment, housing and when receiving services. Many are afraid to disclose their disability to others because of the stereotypes and stigma associated with these disabilities. People with mental health disabilities or addictions are also more likely to have low incomes and many live in chronic poverty.

“Fear, ignorance and a lack of understanding has led to unequal access to opportunities for people with mental health or addiction disabilities in our society. I believe people are now ready to accept that everyone must be treated equitably. I hope that this policy will become a tool for change,” said Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

In Ontario, organizations have a legal duty to prevent and respond to violations of the Human Rights Code. Employers, housing providers and service providers must make sure they respect the human rights of people with mental health or addiction disabilities by maintaining accessible and inclusive environments that are free from discrimination and harassment. This policy will help them be proactive and avoid human rights complaints.

The policy addresses:

  • different forms of discrimination
  • rights at work, in rental housing, and when receiving services
  • organizations’ responsibilities to prevent and eliminate discrimination
  • how to create environments that are inclusive and free from discrimination
  • how the duty to accommodate applies to people with mental health or addiction disabilities.

“Mental health is one of the most common wellness issues at post-secondary institutions,” said Sheldon Levy, President of Ryerson University. “This new policy reinforces the need for all of us to work more closely together to educate, to support and to make positive changes for all.”

“We can and must come much closer to freedom from discrimination for all persons with disabilities by creating environments that encourage full participation and inclusion,” said Ivana Petricone, Executive Director of the ARCH Disability Law Centre. “We look forward to the guidance and leadership of the OHRC, expressed through this new policy, as we work together towards achieving equality for persons with mental health and addiction disabilities.”

When developing this policy, the OHRC relied extensively on the invaluable input it received during its largest-ever policy consultation held across Ontario. In September 2012, the OHRC released Minds that matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions. The report set out key recommendations and OHRC commitments to address human rights issues that affect people with mental health disabilities or addictions. Launching the new policy is one of many ways the OHRC is working to meet those commitments.


For more information:

Afroze Edwards
Senior Communications Officer
Ontario Human Rights Commission