Many Ontarians with mental health or addiction disabilities experience significant disadvantage in society, such as chronic poverty, lower levels of education, lack of access to affordable housing, high unemployment and lack of societal supports. Discrimination, which arises from negative attitudes, stereotypes and systemic practices, is a significant barrier, and may contribute to these social and economic disadvantages. Discrimination against people with mental health and addiction disabilities persists despite the protection of the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code). The Code is the law that provides for equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in employment, housing, services and other areas based on 17 grounds, including disability.
In its 2009-2011 consultation on mental health, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) heard extensively from individuals, advocates, organizations and families about the multiple barriers facing people with mental health and addiction disabilities. These are documented in Minds that matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions. However, in its report, the OHRC could not build a comprehensive portrait of the lives of people with mental health and addiction disabilities using publicly available statistics, because of the limited Ontario-based data available.
The OHRC has therefore decided to produce its own detailed report that examines several indicators of social and economic status for people with mental health and addiction disabilities. These indicators are:
- Prevalence and severity
- Labour force
- Discrimination in the workplace
More specifically, this report highlights the unique disadvantages that people with mental health and addiction disabilities experience in different social and economic areas. Showing these disadvantages can help policy makers, government, researchers, disability groups and service providers in their work to protect the human rights of people with disabilities, including people with mental health or addiction disabilities. It will raise awareness by helping to develop a common understanding of the significant social and economic disparities faced by Ontarians with mental health disabilities, addictions and other disabilities. The OHRC hopes that this report will be used as a tool to promote change to close these gaps.
This report can also be useful for individuals and groups with disabilities when filing claims at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) or other legal venues. A person or group doesn’t need to compare themselves to others to show that they experienced discrimination. However, statistical comparisons can sometimes help to identify discrimination – for example, in systemic discrimination cases.
Finally, this information can provide a baseline for comparison for future years. It can also contribute to Canada’s reporting obligations under the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
 Ontario Human Rights Commission, Minds that matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions (Toronto: Government of Ontario, 2012) online: Ontario Human Rights Commission www.ohrc.on.ca/en/minds-matter-report-consultation-human-rights-mental-h.... In Minds that Matter, the OHRC recommended:
2. The Government of Ontario should measure and report to the public of Ontario on the inequities that create the conditions for discrimination against people with mental health disabilities or addictions (such as unemployment and low income) and efforts to address these conditions. Such a report should be submitted to the federal government as part of its reporting requirements under Article 35 of the [United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] (at 19).
 Since then, Statistics Canada has released the Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health (CCHS-MH), 2012, which surveyed Canadians about six kinds of mental health and addiction disabilities. More information about this survey can be found in Caryn Pearson, Teresa Janz and Jennifer Ali, “Mental and substance use disorders in Canada” (September 2013) Health at a Glance, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-X online: Statistics Canada www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11855-eng.htm (retrieved April 21, 2015). The CCHS-MH does not make comparisons between people with mental health and addiction disabilities and people with other types of disabilities. For this reason, the data relied upon in this report is from the CSD. See also Christine Bizier, Carley Marshall and Gail Fawcett, Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012 – Mental health-related disabilities among Canadians aged 15 years and older, 2012, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 89-654-X. Ottawa, Ontario. December 3, 2014.11 p. online: Statistics Canada www5.statcan.gc.ca/olc-cel/olc.action?objId=89-654-X2014002&objType=46&lang=en&limit=0 (retrieved January 20, 2015).
 On an international level, the rights of people with disabilities are outlined in various instruments, notably the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). As one of the countries that have ratified this treaty, Canada has agreed to take progressive steps to make sure that people with disabilities have equal opportunity and are free from discrimination in all areas of life. The CRPD lays out various rights of persons with disabilities, including rights to an adequate standard of living and social protection (Article 28), education (Article 24), and work and employment (Article 27). Canada also agreed to collect appropriate statistical information to help create policies to implement the CRPD and identify the barriers that people with disabilities face (Article 31). See also Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 13 December 2006, U.N.T.S. vol. 2515, p.3 [CRPD], (entered into force 3 May 2008, accession by Canada 11 March 2010) online: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/ConventionRightsPersonsWithDisabili... (retrieved March 31, 2015).