Discriminatory Bylaws and Biopower

City Council in London is moving toward eliminating a problematic piece of legislation that attempts to limit the density of group homes designated for disabled people within specific neighbourhoods. The intent of this separation distance bylaw may not be as nefarious as it appears at first glance. It’s my understanding that the objective was to ensure that people with disabilities were not ghettoized into one or two specific locations in the city. The intent, then, was allegedly to better integrate disabled people into communities city wide. Whether that intent was achieved remains to be seen.

The issue with this type of bylaw, however, is two fold: first and foremost, it erects additional barriers to the already complex process of developing much needed access to integrated supported living homes and, more importantly, it quite overtly states where a specific group of people can and cannot live. Can you imagine being told you weren’t allowed to move into a neighbourhood because there was already a household comprised of people “like you”? This type of rule would be seen as outrageous for most but, unfortunately, because the target is a vulnerable population, we have been all too willing to endorse social engineering of this nature. This is legalized ableism and it’s far past time our government stops disabling people legislatively.

Kudos to Councillors Tanya Park, Jesse Helmer, Stephen Turner, Maureen Cassidy, and Anna Hopkins for moving forward on removing this problematic stipulation and hope it helps make it a little easier for some of the outstanding organizations in our community to do their work. There is a real shortage of accessible supported living in London and this bylaw was only erecting one more barrier to resolving this shortage. What’s more, I am happy to hear there are plans afoot to review the current city definitions of what constitutes a ‘group home’. Specifically, I hope that we can separate supported living homes for people with disabilities from group homes specifically for people transitioning out of the legal system. I struggle to see how these two uses are comparable to the point that they should be classified together and feel the significantly different community impacts justifies separate designations and rules.

By Jeffrey Preston

Born with a rare neuromuscular myopathy, Jeff has spent his life dedicated to advocating for himself and others with disabilities. With a PhD in Media Studies from Western University, Jeff's research focuses on the representation of disability in popular and digital culture. Jeff is currently an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at King's University College @ Western University in London, ON.