Human Rights Commission calls on Brock Township to permit supportive housing projects

Brock should ensure its by-laws and regulations do not people-zone, letter says

Human Rights Commission calls on Brock Township to permit supportive housing projects

The Ontario Human Rights Commission expressed concern that a Township of Brock by-law creates barriers to establishing and accessing supportive housing, which may be discriminatory under the Ontario Human Rights Code, supported by international, federal and provincial planning laws.

Interim Control By-law 2994-2020, passed by the Council of the Township of Brock in November 2020, banned the establishment of supportive housing and modular construction, including manufactured dwelling houses in an effort to suspend a Beaverton-based supportive housing project. The council can extend the by-law for one year pursuant to s. 38 of the Planning Act, or repeal it at an earlier date.

The commission urged the council to permit supportive housing projects to move forward, to remove as soon as possible any barriers with discriminatory impacts and to make decisions consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Provincial Policy Statement and the human right to adequate housing, wrote Patricia DeGuire, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. DeGuire addressed the letter, dated Oct. 12, to John Grant, mayor of the Township of Brock, and to the council’s members.

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Township is legally obliged to ensure that it does not impose unnecessary restrictions on supportive housing and that planning decisions or by-laws relating to supportive housing do not have discriminatory effects on groups protected by the Code, the letter said, noting that the Code is quasi-constitutional legislation with primacy over all other provincial laws, including the Municipal Act and the Planning Act.

Section 4.4 of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 stresses that the policy statement should be implemented in a way that is consistent with the Code and with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, while s. 1.4.3 supports Durham Region’s commitment in its 10-year housing and homelessness plan to put a stop to homelessness by 2024, said the letter.

The letter added that the Township should ensure that its by-laws and regulations do not “people-zone,” which is the attempt to regulate based on who will live in the housing, often motivated by prejudice and stereotyping. The letter called on Brock to also ensure that the needs of Code-protected groups are accommodated by its planning decisions, as provided by the commission’s guide titled “In the zone: Housing, human rights and municipal planning.”

The international community has recognized that housing is a fundamental and universal human right that the law should safeguard, while the United Nations has recognized the right to housing in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, proclaimed in 1948, among other documents, the letter said. The letter also cited the Canadian government’s National Housing Strategy Act, passed in 2019, which commits to the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing, pursuant to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

According to The Standard’s new release titled “Hearing date set for supportive housing bylaw case between Brock, Durham,” the Ontario Superior Court of Justice will hear the supportive housing dispute between Durham Region and the Township of Brock on Feb. 17, 2022, via video conference. Durham Region’s notice of application, which was provided to The Standard, asked for a declaration quashing the by-law for being illegal and contrary to public policy, or for an interim order for an injunction restraining implementation of the by-law.

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