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New Directions, Springfield settle dispute over group home

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A home for a few intellectually disabled men that sat empty for four years will welcome them this fall.

"We're very pleased," said Jennifer Frain, New Directions' chief executive officer. The RM of Springfield had blocked the home from opening, saying it didn't meet municipal zoning rules.

The agency filed a human rights complaint and a charter challenge in court. The RM avoided going to court by agreeing to mediation through the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.

The human rights settlement agreement includes a requirement to bring forward a proposed amendment to the residential zoning by-law within 18 months. Until then, the RM is to ensure the current by-law will not be interpreted in a discriminatory way.

RM staff will have to attend human rights programs offered by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. A policy will be implemented recommending that the current and future reeve and councillors also attend such programs.

The municipality has to ensure that internal policies and procedures are compliant with The Human Rights Code and that job descriptions for the chief administrative officer (CAO) and human resources director positions are revised to include a requirement that anyone occupying those positions have knowledge of the Manitoba's Human Rights Code.

The RM's CAO Scott Smith will provide input to New Directions on a toolkit under development by a committee on community inclusiveness for municipalities and service providers. The committee includes provincial government departments and service providers who work with children in care and adults with intellectual disabilities. It is chaired by Frain with New Directions.

"When there is a public interest and a human rights component, it is important to pass on to other municipalities what we have learned though this process," Smith said in a prepared statement.

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Updated on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 10:51 AM CDT: updates with full writethru

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