Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) Launches Survey and Engagement Campaign on Poverty and Systemic DiscriminationWritten by Ontario Human Rights Commission
TORONTO–The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has launched Poverty POV (Point of View), to engage with the public, through a survey, key informant discussions and other steps, on their lived experiences with poverty, including homelessness, and mental health and addictions.
The goal is to examine the interrelationship with poverty and systemic discrimination, focusing on areas such as the right to safe housing and access to mental health and addiction services. The OHRC plans to publish an engagement report with findings, recommendations and future actions, and will work with community partners to track and monitor progress.
The extensive engagement processes are designed to connect with people who have past and present lived experiences, and with organizations working with people living in poverty. In July 2022, the OHRC began this dialogue by requesting written submissions from stakeholders and Indigenous partners from around the province. The next phase is a public engagement, starting with a survey that will be open until December 31, 2022. This survey is available online and in several other accessible formats, to make it more widely available to people who may not have online access. A background paper and engagement guide are also available online and in several accessible formats.
The OHRC has sought and is relying on the help of community and advocacy organizations to play the essential role in helping it to connect with people living in poverty, and to encourage them to complete surveys, and where possible, take part in the key informant sessions. The OHRC worked with many organizations before beginning the public engagement and will continue to rely on their expertise throughout the initiative.
Over the coming months, the OHRC will hold key informant discussions with people with lived experience, stakeholders, OHRC advisory groups, and urban Indigenous groups. For Indigenous people, many “mainstream” services are designed and delivered in a way that recolonizes and entrenches disproportionate impacts on these communities.
“Listening to the first hand stories of people living in poverty, and the organizations working with them give us the opportunity to learn from their experiences, challenge our opinions and values and become empathetic, as we take a closer look at the systemic issues that are causing and deepening poverty,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Patricia DeGuire. “The insights gleaned from these stories will enhance our understanding and awareness as we seek to identify the key issues affecting some of the most vulnerable Ontarians and look closely at discriminatory systems. They will also inform our approach in calling for meaningful changes.”
All governments have legal obligations to uphold the National Housing Strategy Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in Ontario, the Human Rights Code. It is time to examine and eliminate the systemic discrimination that results from policy and program decisions in housing and homelessness and mental health and addiction systems.