Mental health and human rights: Can Ontario’s new policy help?
By Roslyn Shields, CAMH Senior Policy Analyst
This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend the release of the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s new policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions.
The Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall proudly introduced this tool for change and the Empowerment Council’s Lucy Costa remarked that the policy will help put Ontario on the “rights track.”
This new policy will assist people and organizations to define, assess and resolve human rights issues related to mental health disabilities and addictions, such as modifying work hours for an employee to attend counselling appointments or making amendments to a housing unit for a tenant with post traumatic stress disorder. And it’s clear that this help is needed.
Despite protection for people with disabilities under the Human Rights Code, people with mental health disabilities and addictions continue to experience discrimination in many areas of their lives.
In a previous consultation across the province, the Commission found that people with mental health disabilities and addictions had problems accessing and maintaining housing, finding and keeping employment, and experienced inequitable and harassing behaviour from other service providers.
Some of these behaviours were intentional, but some were also due to people not knowing or understanding the law.
Housing and people with mental health issues
Access to housing has been a key area of public policy focus for CAMH (See: the CAMH Housing Policy Framework (pdf)). People with mental health disabilities and addictions frequently face discrimination in housing and CAMH advocates for access to secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing.
While there is much more work to be done in this area, I am hopeful that this policy will help make this a reality.
By providing housing, employment and other service organizations with the tools to identify what discrimination against people with mental health disabilities and addictions looks like, understand their duties and responsibilities to accommodate, and learn how to prevent and respond to discrimination, this new policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions will, in the words of Lucy Costa, put us on the ”rights track.”
What are your thoughts on the new policy?
Do you think it will help people with mental health disabilities and addictions to have better access to housing, employment and/or services?