A new report by the city’s ombudsman found that the Toronto Community Housing Corporation failed to properly address human rights complaints made by tenants and has not made human rights and the dignity of residents “a priority.”
The city’s ombudsman Kwame Addo launched an investigation into the TCHC’s process for handling tenant human rights complaints last summer after hearing concerning stories from “several” TCHC tenants.
The findings of that investigation were outlined in a report, which was released on Friday.
The report found that the TCHC shared “incorrect, misleading and inaccessible information” about its human rights complaint handling process on both its website and during communication with tenants.
The city’s ombudsman noted that the TCHC’s website listed its human rights office as the primary place for tenants to take their complaints despite the fact that the office had not been active for several years.
“Further, its Human Rights Policy and Human Rights Complaint Procedure were wildly out of date and did not take into account major changes to the Ontario human rights system that went into effect in 2008,” the report read.
“TCHC staff do not have the proper expertise, resources, or training to effectively and proactively address human rights concerns. The cumulative impact of our findings demonstrated that tenants' human rights and dignity have not been priority for TCHC. This is unacceptable.”
One incident reviewed by the ombudsman’s office involved a TCHC tenant who reported concerns to the public housing corporation about a neighbour who was yelling for “prolonged periods of time.”
“Some of the things the neighbour was yelling were about (the tenant’s) ethnic origin and sexual orientation. TCHC treated this case as a noise complaint instead of viewing it as a human rights issue,” the report read.
Another tenant reported that they had “ongoing concerns” about their neighbour who was harassing their family, including making racial slurs, the ombudsman said.
“They asked to transfer to another building but TCHC denied their request, saying they did not meet the criteria for a transfer,” the report continued.
The ombudsman’s office also looked into instances where the TCHC failed to support tenants' needs for medical accommodations.
"We were concerned that TCHC did not have a system in place to carefully assess and respond to the human rights needs of its tenants and that TCHC staff were potentially overlooking issues that involved the legal rights of tenants," Addo said in a written statement.
“TCHC tenants did not know where they should take their concerns about human rights and staff were unequipped to address them once they were identified.”
The ombudsman said 14 recommendations have been made to the TCHC, which have all been accepted by the public housing corporation.
The TCHC’s human rights policy and procedure must be updated “without delay,” the ombudsman said. Another recommendation states that all information on the human rights complaints process on the TCHC’s website must be up to date and accurate.
The status of the implementation of the recommendations will be provided to the ombudsman’s office by September.
“Ombudsman Toronto will follow up until we are satisfied that TCHC has implemented our recommendations,” the report read.
In a letter attached to the report, Jag Sharma, the president and CEO of the TCHC, said the corporation “welcomes and agrees with the conclusions” reached by the ombudsman’s office.
“The TCHC is committed to meeting its duties to tenants under the Ontario Human Rights Code and implementing an effective tenant human rights complaint process,” the letter read.