The Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasizes both negative and positive rights. Negative rights protect individuals from the negative actions of others. For example, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to be free from violence are both negative rights. Positive rights, on the other hand, allow an individual to benefit from the positive actions of others. The right to health care and the right to education are positive rights. Negative rights are the first step to ensuring basic human rights and positive rights are the path to ensuring equity for everyone.
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination. Discrimination is unfair treatment due to a person’s identity, which includes race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability, including mental health disability. Acts of discrimination can be overt or take the form of systemic (covert) discrimination.
Though a related concept, discrimination differs from stigma. Stigma is a negative stereotype and discrimination is the behaviour that results from the negative stereotype. Stereotypes about mental health conditions have been used to justify bullying and some individuals have been denied adequate housing, loans, health insurance and jobs due to their history of mental illness. In addition, the daily lived experience of discrimination can have a negative impact on an individual’s mental health.
How are my rights protected?
The Ontario Human Rights Code is a law that protects Ontarians from discrimination and harassment due to an individual’s mental health disability. Some individuals with mental health disabilities may require accommodation so that they are able to access services, housing and employment in an equitable manner. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, accommodation is a shared responsibility, and it requires service providers, housing providers and employers to work together with the individual to ensure that accommodation is provided in a manner that respects the dignity of the individual, does not create undue hardship, and ensures the individual’s own participation in the process.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is another law that protects the rights of individuals with mental health disabilities. The purpose of the AODA is developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025. Several accessibility standards have been released by the Government of Ontario, including the Customer Service Standard and the Integrated Accessibility Standard, which includes the Information and Communication Standard, the Employment Standard and the Transportation Standard.
Where can I file a human rights complaint?
In Ontario, the Human Rights System is made up of three different components: the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
All claims of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code are addressed through the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The purpose of the Tribunal is to provide an expeditious and accessible process to assist parties to resolve applications through mediation, and to decide those applications where the parties are unable to reach a resolution through settlement.
The Human Rights Legal Support Centre offers human rights legal services to individuals throughout Ontario who have experienced discrimination. Their services may include legal assistance in filing applications at the Tribunal, and legal representation at mediations and hearings.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission works to promote, protect and advance human rights through research, education and policy development. The Commission is no longer responsible for receiving discrimination complaints.
Visit the accommodation and accessibility page for more information.
Minds that Matter, a report released by the Ontario Human Right Commission in 2012, details the findings from a province-wide consultation on the human rights issues experienced by people with mental health disabilities or addictions.
Mental Health Works is a nationally available program of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) that builds capacity within Canadian workplaces to effectively address the many issues related to mental health in the workplace.
Arch Disability Law Centre is a specialty community legal aid clinic that provides legal services and is dedicated to defending and advancing the equality rights of people with disabilities in Ontario.
Legal Aid Ontario offers low-income people access to a range of legal services tailored to meet their legal needs.
Submission to Ontario Human Rights Review, March 2012.
CMHA Ontario and Schizophrenia Society of Ontario joint response to the draft proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005: Final Public Review Period.