Human Rights Commission reacts to proposed migrant worker housing by-law in Kingsville

Concerns previously raised about Kingsville's 'potentially discriminatory' housing recommendations

Human Rights Commission reacts to proposed migrant worker housing by-law in Kingsville

The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently reacted to a proposed housing by-law for migrant workers in Kingsville.

In August 2021, the Kingsville Town Council passed an interim control by-law restricting off-site dwellings for temporary farm workers until a housing study has been undertaken and completed.

 A report entitled “Kingsville Temporary Farm Worker Housing Study – Final Report” was released in June. The final report contains a summary of options for approaching temporary farm worker housing in Kingsville from a land use perspective and proposes recommendations for implementing those options.

In its June 24 letter, the OHRC raised concerns about the “potentially discriminatory” housing recommendations for migrant workers in Kingsville. It noted that the recommendations would continue to create discriminatory barriers to migrant workers living in Kingsville if implemented.

According to the OHRC, designating a housing type based on the characteristics of the people who live there, as with the proposed classification of “Temporary Farm Worker Dwelling Unit” (TFWDU), creates a serious risk of “people zoning” that is inconsistent with the OHRC’s guidance. “People zoning” is defined as an attempt to regulate based on who will live in the housing.

“Here in particular, restricting the creation of TFWDUs in urban residential areas to those housing four or less temporary farm workers would create a significant barrier to migrant workers being able to live in town and likely violates the Ontario Human Rights Code,” the OHRC wrote.

On June 27, the town council discussed the final report. It directed the Kingsville administration to prepare draft official plan and zoning by-law amendments to provide a framework for “Boarding, Lodging and Rooming Houses” (BLRHs). On August 4, Kingsville held two public information sessions to discuss the proposed bylaw. Another session is scheduled this month before the matter goes before the town council for final approval.

On August 30, the OHRC sent a follow-up letter to the town council regarding the proposed by-law.

“Reviewing the draft Official Plan and Zoning By-Law Amendments, the OHRC recognizes the town’s efforts to reduce discriminatory barriers to migrant workers living as full members of the Kingsville community by permitting BLRHs – of any size – to be established within its boundaries,” the OHRC wrote. “These changes appear to address the potentially discriminatory ‘people zoning’ that was identified in the OHRC’s earlier letter.”

However, the OHRC stressed that migrant workers are already subject to “extensive discrimination” in their lives and work beyond “people zoning,” and Kingsville has an obligation under the Ontario Human Rights Code to ensure the existing vulnerable position of migrant workers is not further exacerbated by town policies or by-laws.

“As the town council moves forward in its review of the draft Official Plan and Zoning By-Law Amendments, the OHRC urges the town council to make decisions consistent with the Code and support the dignity and well-being of all community members,” the OHRC wrote.

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