The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (HRTO) is a quasi-judicial adjudicative agency whose primary role is to resolve claims of discrimination and harassment brought under the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990,c.19. The Code prohibits discrimination and harassment on any of the following grounds:
Race, Colour, Ancestry, Place of origin, Citizenship, Ethnic origin, Disability, Creed, Sex, including sexual harassment and pregnancy, Sexual orientation Gender identity Gender expression Family status, Marital status Age Receipt of public assistance (Note: applies only to claims about housing) Record of offences (Note: applies only to claims about employment.)
Persons who feel they have encountered an incident(s) where they have been discriminated or harassed under the Code, may file an application with the HRTO. Click the image below to see a brief presentation on the Human Right Tribunal of Ontario which explains the purpose of the HRTO as well as the process and procedures.
Louise Dixon v. 930187 Ontario Ltd.
The Dixons began their tenancy with the respondent in September of 2007. Mr. Dixon is a bilateral amputee and relies on a wheelchair for mobility. The applicant and spouse receive income support under the Ontario Disability Support Plan, a form of public assistance. The Dixons inquired about a ground floor apartment, but the one apartment that was available on the ground floor was not ready. The applicant stated that she was informed by the superintendent that as soon as a ground floor apartment became available, they could transfer. When the apartment did become available the Dixons were refused the transfer five times over the course of the next 2 years. The applicant alleged that the respondent breached the Code, by refusing their requests for a transfer to a ground floor apartment.
Whether or not the Dixons were denied the transfer to a ground floor apartment based on their receipt of public assistance, and/or Mr. Dixon’s disability.
LAW & DISCUSSION
The landlord’s representative, Mr. Sablatnig, testified that the refusal of the ground floor apartment was because he believed Mr. Dixon’s wheelchair had contributed to damage in their unit for which the applicants were unable to compensate the landlord. He estimated the damage to be approximately $5,000-$6,000. He stated he did not discuss the damages to the apartment with the Dixons or ask if they would pay for repairs. “They are receiving social assistance– we could not ask for a refund– social assistance does not do that”. He testified he also believed “…any new apartment would suffer a similar damage”. Based on photographs of the damage submitted by the Dixons, the Tribunal found Mr. Sablatnig’s estimate to be “grossly exaggerated”. The Dixons stated that if the matter had been brought to their attention they would have repaired any damages to the apartment prior to moving. During the time the Dixons were requesting transfers, Mrs. Dixon stated there were at least 3 internal transfers in the building. Mr. Sablatnig testified that “one tenant receiving a transfer used an electric wheelchair, and another has a walker”. The Tribunal stated, “Proof of absence of discriminatory behaviour in one instance cannot of itself establish that this behaviour is never demonstrated with others; Direk v. Coffee Time Donuts, 2009 HRTO 1887 (CanLII). The adjudicator stated management believed they were in a better position to make decisions for the Dixons based on the fact they were on social assistance and could not afford to compensate the landlord for any damages, so the matter of compensation was never brought to their attention and therefore, the request for a transfer denied. Management had also decided Mr. Dixon’s wheelchair would damage the new apartment, another reason for the refusal of the transfer. The Dixons were therefore denied a transfer to the ground floor apartment because of their receipt of public assistance and Mr. Dixon’s disability.
s. 2 of the Ontario Human Rights Code clearly prohibits discrimination in accommodation based on the receipt of public assistance or disability. The applicant’s request for a transfer was refused due to their receipt of public assistance and Mr. Dixon’s disability. It was determined that management had breached the Code.