Media Advisory - City of Sarnia Revokes Anachronistic By-laws Targeting Disabled

April 8, 2010

On Monday, April 12 Sarnia City Council meets to enact new by-laws relating to group homes, throwing out regulations in their Zoning By-law and Official Plan that restricted where people with disabilities could live in supported housing.

Mayor Mike Bradley commented, "These antiquated by-laws had to go and we’ve been working on it for some time. We moved decisively to remove portions of our by-laws that placed arbitrary restrictions on group homes – those restrictions had nothing to do with planning and everything to do with negative stereotypes about disabled people."

The revised by-laws ensure that homes for people with disabilities will be treated equally with similar dwellings. Council’s decision comes six weeks after human rights applications were launched against four municipalities in Ontario: Toronto, Kitchener, Smiths Falls and Sarnia. Kim Bresee, Director of Planning and Building for the City of Sarnia prepared the staff report that found "group homes provide a supportive living environment for people that require additional care in order to live meaningful, somewhat independent and dignified lives." The report found that "group home uses are clearly characterized as residential uses and they are not considered to be institutional or business uses". While group homes were already permitted uses in all dwellings in Sarnia, the report recommended the removal of the locational requirements which had presented barriers for some group home providers by reducing the range of housing stock that could be considered when purchasing a new home.

"We had fully intended to change those by-laws and the legal action came just before we made the changes. I hope that other municipalities follow our lead," added Bradley "and I will be raising this issue with other Mayors and the Ministry of Housing."

Kathy Laird, Executive Director of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre and lead counsel on the case against the four municipalities said "We are thrilled that the City of Sarnia has taken this action and we intend to remove the City of Sarnia as a respondent in the human rights applications. We are grateful to the City’s staff, Mayor Bradley and Council."

New contact information for HRLSC outreach

My placement here at the Human Rights Legal Support Centre has come to an end. It has been a pleasure hearing about projects going on across Ontario to advance human rights.Going forward, please contact Jennifer Ramsay at Jennifer.Ramsay.hrlsc@ontario.ca to let the HRLSC know about your activities and with any questions and comments.

Jaimee Wheaton
Outreach/ Student
Human Rights Legal Support Centre/
Centre d'assistance juridique en matière de droits de la personne
180 Dundas Street West, 7th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 0A1
Tel: 416-314-6651
Toll-free/sans frais: 1-866-625-5179
TTY/ATS 416-314-6651
TTY/ATS toll free/sans frais 1-866-612-8627 E-mail/ courriel: Jaimee.Wheaton.hrlsc@ontario.ca
site Web: www.hrlsc.on.ca

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