Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario (CMHA Ontario) has made a written submission in response to the Ontario Human Rights Review 2012.
In August 2011, the Government of Ontario appointed Andrew Pinto to conduct a review of the new human rights system in Ontario. A website and a consultation paper were released that detailed the process of the review. Ontarians, especially individuals who have used the services of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Ontario Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Legal Support Centre, were encouraged to participate in the review process through written submissions, and through oral remarks at public meetings and stakeholder meetings.
On February 8, 2012, CMHA Ontario convened a stakeholder consultation meeting to help inform the Review. Participants included individuals who:
- Have first-hand experience using the services of the Tribunal, the Legal Support Centre and the Commission;
- Have experienced issues, barriers or challenges to accessing services at the Tribunal, the Legal Support Centre and the Commission;
- Have filed an application to the Tribunal regarding experiences of discrimination on the grounds of mental health disability;
- Are service providers who have assisted clients who have filed an application to the Tribunal regarding experiences of discrimination on the grounds of mental health disability.
CMHA Ontario’s written submission was informed by the statements and experiences shared by the participants of the stakeholder consultation meeting, and quotations from meeting participants are highlighted throughout the document. The document identifies six main barriers for individuals with mental health conditions for accessing the human rights system in Ontario:
- Financial barriers have created a two-tiered human rights process in Ontario;
- The human rights process has a negative impact on mental health;
- There is a lack of information about the human rights process;
- There is a lack of clarity on the scope of the human rights system;
- There are lengthy timelines for the human rights process; and
- There is a lack of means for monitoring the compliance of Tribunal decisions and enforcement of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
CMHA Ontario offers multiple recommendations for improving the human rights system in Ontario. (The following are condensed versions of the full recommendations; to read them in full, go to www.ontario.cmha.ca).
CMHA Ontario recommends that:
- A filing fee to participate in the human rights application process should not be implemented.
- The Tribunal should appoint a Duty Counsel during the case proceedings to assist applicants who do not have the means to secure private legal representation.
- The Tribunal and the Legal Support Centre should provide appropriate accommodation, support and hands-on assistance for individuals with mental health disabilities during the human rights application process.
- The Tribunal, the Legal Support Centre and the Commission should provide applicants with expected timelines and regular updates for the various steps of the application and case process.
- The Tribunal should develop a comprehensive mechanism for monitoring compliance and enforcement of damage awards.
- The Tribunal should develop a public disclosure list of respondents (individuals and organizations) who fail to comply with the Tribunal’s decisions, as well as respondents who are repeat offenders.
- The Commission should assume the responsibility for educating Ontarians about how to file a human rights application.
- The Commission should hold public education workshops across the province detailing the step-by-step process for filing applications with the Tribunal.
- The Commission should assume the responsibility of managing public inquiries through the information hotline.
- The Commission should develop a web-based decision matrix, similar to the matrix used by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, to assist applicants in identifying their human rights issue and determining if they should move forward with filing an application with the Tribunal.
- The Commission should refer individuals filing a systemic human rights complaint to other organizations and coalitions in Ontario who are working to address the same systemic issue that they are facing.
To access CMHA Ontario’s submission, visit www.ontario.cmha.ca/submissions.
For more information about the Ontario Human Rights Review 2012, visit www.ontariohumanrightsreview.org.