The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) conducted a public opinion survey from a cross-section of the population to ask about human rights in Ontario. The findings of the survey and the report were released on December 8, 2017 to the media and the public.
The survey asked general questions about peoples’ awareness of human rights and discrimination, attitudes about accommodation needs, and people’s experiences with discrimination. The survey was conducted online in order to avoid the participants feeling pressure to provide more “socially desirable” responses, and rather provide more honest answers about these sensitive issues. The OHRC hired the Environics Research Group to conduct the survey following a government of Ontario procurement process.
In the findings of the survey, “race or colour” was stated as the most common reason for discrimination by 63% of participants. “Disability” was the answer given by 25% of participants. Some questions provided more specific data on mental health disabilities and addictions and participants’ feelings toward people in this category. The survey also covered perceptions of immigrants and cultural diversity aimed at gauging attitudes towards religious and cultural differences and related human rights accommodations.
Accommodation of people with mental health disabilities was also covered and 60% of people suggested that not enough is done to accommodate the needs of this group. The strongest public support appears to be for providing specific accommodations for physical, mental health or learning disabilities. In the area of criminal justice, 34% of people feel it is “sometimes justified” for police to profile people with mental health disabilities and addictions.
These findings provide a telling snapshot of the opinions, attitudes and perceptions of Ontarians on important human rights issues and shine a light on public misperceptions and stigma about people with mental health and addictions issues. Over the years, CMHA Ontario has done extensive work to address the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health and addictions and recently released our Advancing Equity in Mental Health: An Action Framework to support service providers to embed equity at a service delivery, organizational and public policy level.