Human Rights Tribunal Upholds Human Rights for Children with Autism

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has made key findings on the importance for persons with disabilities accessing services this year. PooranLaw was co-counsel for a person with autism and his family in the decision NJ v. Granite Club, which found that the Granite Club (a private family, athletic, and social club in Toronto) violated the Ontario Human Rights Code by discriminating against Niam Jain—a teenage boy with autism—by failing to provide him with appropriate accommodations. Following an incident in the men’s locker room with an adult member of the club threatening police involvement, the Club banned Niam from using the locker room independently and required that he be accompanied by a caregiver at all times. The Tribunal ultimatley found that this was a “rush to judgment” based on stereotypes and generalized assumptions; in other words, the Club jumped straight to assessing the “risk” of the situation without meaningfully attempting to understand Niam and his specific needs and abilities. The Club was ordered to, among other things, undergo mandatory human rights training and pay Niam $35,000 for injury to dignity and hurt feelings, which is a strong precedent for damages stemming from a single incident of discrimination.

Similarly, in H.D. v. Kismutt Small Dog Rescue, the Tribunal found that the service provider discriminated against a person with autism by failing to accommodate him. Among other things, the dog rescue service relied on narratives suggesting that people with autism are unsafe, and created a poisioned service environment which constitutes discrimination. The Tribunal found that the service provider perpetuated ableist and negative stereotypes about the applicant and his family as a person living with autism.

We are pleased to see such findings from the Tribunal and the remedies flowing from these decisions. They are strong reminders to organizations, including private clubs, about what their obligations are when accommodating individuals with disabilities.

If you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.

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