On September 12, 2012, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) released Minds that Matter, the findings from the province-wide consultation on the human rights issues experienced by individuals with mental health and addictions disabilities. More than 1,500 individuals and organizations participated in this consultation.
The findings reveal the discrimination and harassment faced by individuals with mental health and addictions disabilities. The OHRC states, “We heard that people with mental health issues or addictions face common stereotypes – that they are a security risk or are incapable of making decisions for themselves. These stereotypes result in widespread discrimination in housing, employment and services, and are deeply embedded in legislation, institutional policies and practices of institutions and individual attitudes.”
Discrimination based on mental health and addictions can combine or intersect with other forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism and homophobia, creating distinct experiences of disadvantage for people with mental health and addictions disabilities.
According to the OHRC, rules, policies and practices in employment, housing and services are not designed with the needs of people with mental health and addictions conditions in mind. Many individuals are not aware that they have a legal right to be free from discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Many organizations do not appear to be aware of their responsibilities under the Code to uphold the human rights of people with mental health and addictions disabilities, and many organizations need guidance on how to meet their duty to accommodate these needs.
The report provides eight general recommendations, followed by specific recommendations in the areas of housing, employment and services. The OHRC commitments in these areas are also highlighted.
The eight general recommendations include:
- The Government of Ontario should address its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in full to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with psychosocial disabilities. This includes actively promoting an environment where people with psychosocial disabilities can and are encouraged to take a full part in the conduct of public affairs (Article 29).
- 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 theCRPD.
- Organizations and individuals across Ontario should work to enhance efforts to challenge stereotypes about people with mental health issues or addictions by implementing and actively taking part in anti-stigma and education campaigns.
- The Government of Ontario, whenever considering budget restraint measures that affect services, housing and employment for people with low income, should particularly take into account the goals identified in the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the needs of people with psychosocial disabilities, people living in poverty, and other groups protected by the Code.
- The Government of Ontario should enhance and improve social assistance, including reviewing and improving benefits, to make sure that people can afford the necessities of life such as food, clothing, adequate shelter and other needs.
- The Government of Ontario and organizations providing services to people with mental health and addictions should work to identify and eliminate discrimination based on disability in their services, as well as discrimination based on age, sex, race and related grounds, gender identity, sexual orientation and other Code grounds. This may require a process of examining policies, practices and decision-making processes and removing barriers that lead to discrimination for Code-protected groups (see the OHRC’s“Guidelines on developing human rights policies and procedures” for more information).
- The Accessibility Directorate should consult with people with psychosocial disabilities and disability groups to evaluate the current Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) standards to see how well they take into account the needs of people with psychosocial disabilities. Based on the feedback from consultees, the standards should be modified to take into account any additional accessibility requirements.
- The Accessibility Directorate should develop and promote further education materials that show how the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) specifically applies to people with mental health disabilities or addictions, so organizations understand their responsibilities towards people with psychosocial disabilities.
To access access the full report, visit www.ohrc.on.ca.