Está en la página 1de 3

Ontario Commission

Human Rights Ontarienne des
Commission Droits de la Personne

Office of the Chief Commissioner Bureau du Commissaire en Chef

180 Dundas Street West, Suite 900 180, rue Dundas ouest, suite 900 Ontario
Toronto ON M7A 2G5 Toronto (Ontario) M7A 2G5

Tel.: (416) 314-4537 Tel. : (416) 314-4537
Fax: (416) 314-7752 Telec. : (416) 314-7752

January 29,2018

Claire M.C. Kennedy
Chair of the Governing Council
The Office of the Governing Council
Room 106, Simcoe Hall
27 King's College Circle
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario
M5S 1A1

Dear Ms. Kennedy:

RE: University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy raises human rights concerns

I hope this finds you well. I am writing today to outline the Ontario Human Rights
Commission's concerns regarding the University of Toronto's proposed University-Mandated
Leave of Absence Policy which is being considered by the University Affairs Board tomorrow
(January 30, 2018).

The OHRC is concerned that the treatment of students contemplated in the Policy may result
in discrimination on the basis of mental health disability contrary to the Human Rights Code.
The OHRC raised these issues in a meeting with staff from the Office of the Vice-President
and Provost on December 13, 2017. Given our ongoing concerns, we recommend that the
Policy not be approved in its current form.

The Duty to Accommodate

In our view, the Policy falls short of meeting the duty to accommodate under the Code, and
as outlined in the OHRC's Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability and
Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions.

Given the negative impact of being placed on a leave and losing access to education,
student services, and housing, the University must be able to demonstrate that the Policy
and its application is bona fide and accommodates students with mental health disabilities to
the point of undue hardship. The duty to accommodate also exists at all stages: prior to
putting a student on leave, in setting terms and conditions during or after a student's leave,
and in determining re-entry after a leave.

As you are aware, undue hardship can only be established due to excessive cost or
significant health and safety risk. In rare situations, where a student with a disability poses a
health and safety risk to themselves or to others, it is open to the education provider to argue
that accommodating the student would cause undue hardship. In extremely rare cases, this
will be clear - such as where the risk to others is imminent and serious. Otherwise, before
undue hardship can be determined, education providers must evaluate the seriousness of
the risk after accommodation has been provided and after other measures to manage
inappropriate behaviour and reduce risk have been taken.

The Policy appears to allow decisions to be made by University administrators who do not
have any specialized training on human rights or risk assessment, and does not require the
University to seek objective information from an expert about the specific risk posed. Under
human rights law, however, the onus is on the education provider to establish that it cannot
accommodate a student due to health and safety risk. The risk assessment must be based
on objective evidence (such as a medical assessment) and cannot be based on subjective
views (that may be informed by stereotype). Ultimately, the decision to exclude a student
from school due to alleged health and safety risk without sufficient objective evidence, and
without meeting the undue hardship standard set out in the Code, may constitute

The Po//cyalso provides no explanation about when the University will determine that the
student cannot engage in the essential activities required to pursue an education. Under the
Code, a student with a disability cannot be judged incapable of fulfilling essential educational
requirements unless accommodation has been provided to the point of undue hardship, and
the abilities of the student have been assessed after accommodation is provided. The Policy
makes no reference to this assessment or the duty to provide accommodation to the point of
undue hardship prior to this determination being made.

Care and stigmatization of students with mental health disabilities

The Po//cydoes not require the University to assist students who pose a serious risk of harm
to themselves - either in terms of accessing additional supports or calling emergency
services. Rather, the Policy appears to allow the University to immediately put the student on
leave and withdraw essential services (housing, health, and counselling services) at a time
when the student is in crisis and most in need of support. This approach is not consistent
with the Policy's intent of preventing harm.
While we acknowledge the challenge of meeting human rights obligations while addressing
behaviour that present health and safety risks on campus, we are concerned that the Policy
does not strike an appropriate balance. We urge the University Affairs Board to delay
approval of the Policy until human rights concerns are addressed.

Please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you wish to discuss this further.


Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
Chief Commissioner
Ontario Human Rights Commission

ec: Meric S. Gertler, President, University of Toronto
David Walders, Secretary, University Affairs Board
OHRC Commissioners