TORONTO, Aug. 8, 2012 /CNW/ - Residents of an as-of-right group home were repeatedly subject to discriminatory taunts at their home. The home was targeted by neighbours who brought their outrage to an ugly meeting of the Town Council. Despite advice from the Town's lawyer that interfering with the residents could be discriminatory and illegal, the Town of Napanee unanimously voted to deny the home a zoning compliance letter.
Taunts by neighbours included "get out of here you f-ing retards" and "go away" and their behaviour included making unjustified police calls and photographing residents as they tried to enjoy their garden.
By the fall of 2011, residents felt uncomfortable going outside. The group home owners saw a marked decline in some residents' health as they became more and more distressed by the neighbours' taunts. "My uncle simply wants to live in a supportive environment. It's a lovely home and why would anyone deny a person a home because they have a disability?" wondered, Nancy-Anne Raymond, a niece of one of the residents.
The group home residents have filed human rights applications against the Town of Napanee, claiming discrimination in services. Council minutes reveal that Mayor Schermerhorn "agreed that if he was living in the area he would be upset too and that it was the wrong spot for a group home."
Jo-Ann Seamon, senior counsel with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre is representing five applicants, including the owners of the group home. Seamon commented, "I have seen a lot of terrible human rights abuses here at the Legal Support Centre, but this case has shaken me badly. It is hard to believe in this century that the entire town council catered to people who are 'scared' of people with developmental disabilities."
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has been working with the HRLSC and other partners to help municipalities address issues of human rights in housing. The OHRC will be intervening in these cases. Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, urged the Town of Napanee to "consider vulnerable people who live in your community, whose lives are profoundly affected by the decisions you make. Show some leadership to move away from 'you are not wanted here' to 'Welcome home'."
SOURCE: Human Rights Legal Support Centre
For further information:
or to arrange interviews:
Jennifer Ramsay, Human Rights Legal Support Centre 416-597-4958; mobile: 416-522-5931