Building human rights into municipal planning is aim of new OHRC guide

TORONTO, Feb. 17, 2012 /CNW/ - Attorney General John Gerretsen today joined Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, to launch In the zone: Housing, human rights and municipal planning. The guide offers municipalities information about their legal obligations, and about the tools and best practices they can apply to connect human rights and housing when making zoning and planning decisions.

In the zone can be a helpful tool for municipal planners, councillors, housing service managers, district social services boards and others who make decisions about planning and zoning for housing. It is also a good resource for organizations and advocates who are working with municipalities to advance human rights in housing.

Over the past few years, the OHRC has worked or commented on many different zoning issues with cities across Ontario. While each municipality and each housing issue is unique, some common themes emerged. In the zone was written to capture these themes, and to help the OHRC send a consistent message to every municipality in Ontario.

The guide offers the OHRC's best advice on such themes as:

  • The legal obligation to take steps to overcome discriminatory opposition to affordable housing
  • Focusing on legitimate land use planning, not "people zoning" - in other words, not using zoning to keep certain people out of some neighbourhoods
  • Making sure public meetings focus on planning issues, not the people who will live in the housing
  • Not using minimum separation distances to limit housing options for people protected under Code grounds.

The OHRC consulted planning experts, planning and human rights lawyers, housing providers and advocates to make sure the guide reflects a wide range of views.

"Planning decisions are made in council chambers, committee rooms and planning meetings across Ontario," said Attorney General Gerretsen. "This guide offers advice and best practices every municipality can apply to make sure human rights are part of those decisions."

"Connecting human rights and housing is more than just a 'good thing to do,'" said Chief Commissioner Hall. "Under Ontario's Human Rights Code, it's the law, and this guide offers steps to help make the law a lived reality for all Ontarians."

Copies of the guide will be distributed to every municipality and regional government in Ontario, as well as to planning associations, university schools of planning, libraries, and to housing experts and advocates.

The guide is also available on the OHRC website at www.ohrc.on.ca.

The In the zone launch was the start of Human rights from A - Z, a day of training at Queen's University for municipal staff and associates relating to the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination.

CCMARD is a growing coalition of 51 municipalities across Canada that have made a series of 10 commitments to eliminate racism and discrimination in their communities. One member is the co-host of this event, the City of Kingston.

"The City of Kingston is proud to be a member of CCMARD and to co-host the launch of the In the zone guide," said Deputy Mayor Jim Neill. "In the zone will be an important resource for municipalities, and will ensure that human rights are a part of municipal planning decisions and documents."

Today's event features presentations on making organizational change to eliminate racism and discrimination, collecting human rights-based data, setting up special programs under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and a look at the CCMARD Toolkit for Municipalities.

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SOURCE Ontario Human Rights Commission

For further information:

Afroze Edwards, Senior Communications Officer, Ontario Human Rights Commission, 416-314-4528, Afroze.edwards@ohrc.on.ca
Elaine Flis, Ministry of the Attorney General, 416-326-7071
Cindie Ashton, Communications Officer, City of Kingston, 613-546-4291, ext. 3116;
613-329-3462 (cell); or call the City of Kingston's media hotline at 613-546-4291, ext. 2300


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