Toronto Community Housing Is Not Prioritizing Tenants’ Human Rights, Says Toronto’s Ombudsman
In his report released today, An Investigation into Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s Tenant Human Rights Complaints Process, Ombudsman Kwame Addo says that Toronto’s social housing provider, Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), is not safeguarding the human rights of its tenants.
“Human rights are fundamental rights, and TCHC has legal obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code to respect them,” says Ombudsman Addo. “However, my investigation found that TCHC has not treated the human rights and dignity of its tenants with the priority they deserve. This is unacceptable.”
Addo launched the investigation after a number of tenants complained to his office about TCHC’s process for addressing their human rights complaints, including instances where TCHC failed to support tenants’ needs for medical accommodations, or ignored the impact of living next to someone regularly yelling ethnic slurs at them.
“We were concerned that TCHC did not have a system in place to carefully assess and respond to the human rights needs of its tenants and that TCHC staff were potentially overlooking issues that involved the legal rights of tenants,” says Addo.
The investigation, which focused on TCHC’s process for addressing human rights complaints, found a number of problems, including that TCHC:
- Shared incorrect and misleading information with its tenants about its human rights complaint process, including referring them to a human rights office that had not been active for several years.
- Had wildly out of date policies and procedures that disregarded the major changes to the Ontario’s human rights system that happened in 2008.
- Did not properly train or resource the staff responsible for dealing with tenants’ human rights.
As a result, TCHC tenants did not know where they should take their concerns about human rights and staff were unequipped to address them once they were identified.
Addo made 14 recommendations in his report to ensure that TCHC starts to maintain a housing environment where tenants’ human rights are respected and protected. The recommendations include that TCHC should:
- Ensure that all information on its website related to its process for human rights complaints is up to date and accurate.
- Update both its Human Rights Policy and its Human Rights Complaint Procedure without delay.
- Develop mandatory training in human rights for staff to ensure they have the tools and expertise needed to identify and resolve human rights complaints.
- Establish an effective and consistent system for documenting and tracking human rights complaints and report annually to the public on the complaint data and trends.
Addo acknowledges that TCHC is aware of these issues and has been intending for some time to update its human rights complaint process. However, he also notes TCHC’s significant delay in doing so. “It is a major failing of TCHC to have such outdated policies and processes for such a long time. Tenants cannot be expected to wait any longer.”
TCHC says it supports and accepts the Ombudsman’s recommendations and will undertake to implement all of them. Addo and his office will monitor TCHC’s actions until he is satisfied that his recommendations have been successfully implemented.
An Ombudsman Toronto backgrounder is available at ombudsmantoronto.ca.
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Ombudsman Toronto listens to and investigates people’s complaints and concerns about City administration and the fairness of City services. We are a free and impartial office that operates independently from the City, holding it accountable to the people it serves.