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Legal Action Launched Against Discriminatory Zoning By-laws


Original Publication Date: 2010-02-23

Synopsis and Key Points:

People with disabilities shut out by zoning laws that limit the type of people who may live in any one area.

Main Digest

On Tuesday, February 23, eight people with disabilities gathered to file applications against four municipalities (Toronto, Sarnia, Smiths Falls and Kitchener) that use planning laws to limit the number and type of disabled people who may live there.

Smiths Falls notified the applicants early this morning that their municipal council will meet as soon as possible to discuss "removing those sections that deal with special requirements for group homes, leaving them subject to the same planning rules as any other property."

While the by-laws are supposed to regulate land use, people with disabilities are shut out by zoning laws that explicitly limit the type of people who may live in any one area. Today's filing marks the first time a legal challenge has been mounted against discriminatory by-laws using Ontario's new human rights system.

Urban planner John Gladki of GHK International noted, "There is no planning justification for arbitrary separation by-laws in relation to supportive housing. Distancing provisions are usually used to separate noxious uses such as propane depots from residential uses."

One of the applicants, Peter Lye, said, "I have become outraged at the bias against labeled people that can still be found in these anachronistic by-laws." Linda Chamberlain referred to her long struggle with schizophrenia and homelessness and the relief of finding a supportive place to call home.

Kathy Laird, Executive Director of the Human Rights Legal Support Center and lead counsel for the applicants said, "We hope these legal actions will persuade municipalities to focus on creating opportunities for supportive housing instead of creating barriers."

Peggy Birnberg of the Homecoming Community Choice Coalition said, "It's time to end people zoning."

Laurie Letheren of the ARCH Disability Law Center, representing a group of people with intellectual disabilities, referred to the importance of her clients being able to live in their community of choice.

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