Ontario Issues Human Rights Policy for the Mentally Ill to Help Fight Discrimination

By Mehta, Diana | The Canadian Press, June 18, 2014 | Go to article overview

Ontario Issues Human Rights Policy for the Mentally Ill to Help Fight Discrimination


Mehta, Diana, The Canadian Press


New human rights policy for the mentally ill

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TORONTO - The Ontario Human Rights Commission released a set of guidelines Wednesday on how to best handle human rights issues related to the mentally ill, saying it hoped other provinces would follow suit.

The new policy -- which comes at a time when statistics suggest one in five Canadians experience a mental health illness in any given year -- offers those dealing with mental illness, as well as their employers, landlords and other service providers "user-friendly" advice on how to best identify and combat rights violations.

"Until very recently many people have been fearful of coming out of the veritable closet where they found themselves because of fear, because of stigma, because of discrimination and barriers," chief commissioner Barbara Hall told The Canadian Press.

"This policy is saying that people with mental health issues are protected under the human rights code. They have rights. Employers, service providers, landlords all have responsibilities and we need to understand those better and then we need to take action to remove the barriers."

Individuals dealing with mental health issues are guaranteed equal rights and opportunities under Ontario's Human Rights Code in areas such as jobs, housing and services. But the commission said many still continue to face "considerable discrimination, stigma and social exclusion."

The problem over the years has been that many are unclear on what counts as discrimination and how to best navigate the situation, said Hall.

"The human rights code says you can't discriminate on the basis of disability, period," she said. "What we're doing is taking those words and answering the questions, filling in the blanks about what does that look like."

The 109-page policy explains the rights afforded to those dealing with mental health issues, offers examples of human rights violations on the basis of mental illness or addiction, and suggests practical advice on how to deal with such situations.

"People want to comply with the law," Hall said. "But we don't often know what to do, we don't know what the rights are, we don't know what the responsibilities are. …

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Ontario Issues Human Rights Policy for the Mentally Ill to Help Fight Discrimination
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