Persons coping with mental health disabilities and addictions have long endured discrimination and stigmatization throughout the world. These individuals are more likely to have lower incomes than people without psychosocial disabilities, and many must live in chronic poverty. As a result, the Supreme Court of Canada has stated:
“There is no question but that the mentally ill in our society have suffered from historical disadvantage, have been negatively stereotyped and are generally subject to social prejudice.”
Research studies estimate that approximately one in five Canadian adults will experience a mental illness or addiction. However, because of prevailing negative attitudes and ignorance concerning people with psychosocial disabilities, many are afraid to reveal their disability to others. These individuals fear being negatively labeled, losing their jobs or experiencing unequal treatment. Consequently, many do not seek support or treatment for their mental health issue or addiction.
People living in Ontario with mental health disabilities and addictions are protected against discrimination and harassment by the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) under the grounds of “disability”. Protection extends to all forms of employment and includes joining or belonging to a union, professional association or vocational association. Each person with a mental health disability or addiction, whether visible or not, has the same rights to equal opportunities under the Code.
Every organization and institution operating in Ontario has a legal obligation and responsibility to respect human rights by preventing and responding to breaches of the Code, ensuring an inclusive and discrimination-free environment.
“The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is an independent statutory body whose mission is to promote, protect and advance human rights across the province as set out in the Code.”
The OHRC’s Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions provides employers and others with practical guidance and best practices on the legal rights and responsibilities set out in the Code as they relate to mental health and addiction issues to ensure equality for all Ontarians.
For more information and details on the policy, see the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
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