TORONTO, Oct. 7, 2014 /CNW/ - Four years ago, eight people with
disabilities filed human rights applications against Toronto, Sarnia,
Smiths Falls and Kitchener to challenge mandatory separation distances
for homes for Ontarians with disabilities.
Yesterday, Smiths Falls Council became the fourth municipality to remove
discriminatory sections of their zoning bylaws. All four Ontario
municipalities had used zoning laws to limit supportive housing for
people with disabilities within their municipality.
The human rights applications were filed on behalf of the Dream Team, a group of advocates living with mental health disabilities. "In the
future, people will scratch their heads and wonder why a legal process
was even necessary to stop people from being excluded," said Dream Team
member Phillip Dufresne.
Laurie Letheren of the ARCH Disability Law Centre, representing a group of people with intellectual disabilities based in
eastern Ontario, commented "the members of People First Ontario celebrate this overdue change that affirms people living with
disabilities can live in the neighbourhood of their choice."
The other three municipalities had complied one by one. Sarnia removed
its minimum separation distances for group homes almost immediately
after the human rights applications were filed in 2010. Two years
later Kitchener followed suit. It took until mid-June of 2014 for the
City of Toronto to conclude there was "no planning justification" and
Council passed a bylaw change removing the restrictions.
Kathy Laird, Executive Director of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre said "We call on every municipality to amend their bylaws and remove
arbitrary barriers and focus on inclusion of people with disabilities
in every community." Noting that hundreds of municipalities have such
exclusions on their books, Laird "hoped further legal action won't be
The Ontario Human Rights Commission intervened in the human rights applications and Chief Commissioner
Barbara Hall welcomed the news. "Applying a human rights lens to zoning
requirements is a challenging but vitally important task. Through these
bylaw changes, each municipality accepted the challenge. I encourage
all municipalities to blend human rights and zoning, to the benefit of
neighbourhoods and residents across Ontario."
SOURCE: Human Rights Legal Support Centre
For further information:
For more information or to arrange interviews:
Jennifer Ramsay, Human Rights Legal Support Centre 416-597-4958; mobile: 416-522-5931
Rosemary Bennett, Ontario Human Rights Commission 416-314-4549