Human rights policy clarifies mental health, addiction

Ontario policy designed to educate employers about responsibilities
By Liz Bernier
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/14/2014

Mental health and addictions disabilities will affect almost one in five Canadian adults over their lifetimes — yet these disabilities often remain misunderstood.

Those who struggle with mental illness have also suffered from historical disadvantage, negative stereotypes and social prejudice, according to the landmark 1991 Supreme Court of Canada decision R. v. Swain. Owen Swain was charged with assault after attacking his wife and children in a bizarre manner. His court case spurred Parliament to pass new laws around individuals who are found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.

Prejudice has made many people with mental illness afraid to disclose their condition to their employer, said Barbara Hall, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) in Toronto.