Political Correctness in Housing Advertisements



June 18, 2011

Th Led by former mayor Barbara Hall, the Commission has long chafed at its restrictions to repressing free speech, asking on several occasions for increased legislative powers over the media. She was involved in the Mark Steyn and MacLean’s case, as one of the three jurisdictions in which the complaint was shopped.

e Ontario Human Rights Commission is, in many ways, the trailblazer of the human rights industry. While the BCHRT takes the cake for mind-numbing head-scratching decisions, the OHRC has a much broader mandate to proactively interfere in the economic activities of individual Ontarians.

Hall recognized she had no jurisdiction over a nationally-distributed publication, but nevertheless used her bully pulpit to denounce Steyn’s book, saying it “has been identified as contributing to Islamophobia and promoting social intolerance.”

In the aftermath, Hall called for the creation of a media watchdog, to censor the national media in much the same way as provincial Tribunals censor the written and spoken word with their jurisdictions – in her words, “less strict and more accessible than the courts”, which “would allow readers to bring complaints against media anywhere in Canada, no matter where they live”.

Strangely enough, Barbara Hall seems to be remarkably selective about the issues that her Commission is pursuing. One reporter asked her why she was so focused on Steyn while saying absolutely nothing about the recent spate of honor killings in Ontario and Quebec.

Her response? “ere are a thousand things that happen in the province of Ontario on a daily basis, and we don’t comment on all of them.” When pressed with the fact that murdered women sounds more important than a controversial columnist, she responded, “there are many problematic things that happen in our community and [the Commission has] to make choices because we can’t respond to everything.”

All righty then. Hall’s latest crusade is making sure that rental ads in Ontario don’t have discriminatory language, such as “not soundproof.” No joke.

Now, you might be asking, how does the mere mention of poor soundproofing in a rental suite discriminatory? “[it] may indicate bias against families with children”, the OHRC’s official website states. It’s also not legal, in the Commission’s view, to put “no pets” on the rental ad, even if the landlord is allergic to pets – that might discriminate against someone with a service dog. And don’t even think about any suggestions of the ideal type of tenant; those are clearly discriminatory. “Suitable for student”, for example, or “suits working couple”, are definite no-nos.

“Advancing human rights for tenants,” the OHRC website proudly states. But nowhere does it mention it is interested in the human rights of landlords. It’s more important for a prospective tenant to be free from statements like “no soundproofing” than it is to protect landlords’ freedom to use their property as they see fit. In a way, it aligns with the earlier example, in which the human right for Muslims to be free from offense is more pressing than their right to be protected from murder.

e selectivity, dare I say discrimination, of the Commission is undeniable.

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