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Ontario Human Rights

The Preamble

The Preamble says that we recognize that all people:

● Have human rights that cannot be infringed upon or dismissed

● Have individual dignity and worth

● Are entitled to equal rights and opportunities without discrimination

● Need a climate of understanding and mutual respect, so that everyone
feels a part of society and can contribute fully to it.
The Code evolves over time

While the principles of the Preamble remain constant, the way we interpret these
principles continues to evolve in step with changes in our society. Examples of how

the Code has changed include:

● In 1981, adding sexual harassment as a violation of the Code

● In the 1980s, adding disability and sexual orientation as prohibited grounds of
discrimination

● In 2012, adding the new grounds of gender identity and gender expression
The Code is remedial

Human rights legislation is meant to remedy the situation for the person or group discriminated
against, and to prevent further discrimination. It is not meant to punish the individual or
organization that has discriminated.

The Ontario Human Rights Code provides for civil remedies, not criminal penalties. Individuals
or organizations found to have discriminated are not sent to jail but can be required to
compensate the person discriminated against, or make major changes in the way they conduct
their affairs.
• HUMAN RIGHTS – Fundamental rights & freedoms to
which all people are entitled
• DISCRIMINATION – Treating a person unfairly
because of...What?
• When discrimination happens without governmental
laws being broken or involvement the CCRF doesn’t
apply – it turns to each province’s Human Rights
Codes. Ours is the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The Ontario Human Rights Code provides
protection from discrimination in 5 areas of our lives.
The areas are:
1) GOODS, SERVICES & FACILITIES: includes schools, hospitals,
shops, restaurants, sports & rec. organizations and facilities
2) OCCUPANCY OF ACCOMMODATION: the place where you live or
want to live, whether you rent or own
3) CONTRACTS: written or oral agreements
4) EMPLOYMENT: including ads, application forms and interviews as
well as assignments, training, and promotion
5) ASSOCIATION/UNION MEMBERSHIP: ex: OSSTF
Protected Grounds
● Age Marital status (including single status)

● Ancestry, colour, race Gender identity, gender expression

● Citizenship Receipt of public assistance (in
housing only)
● Ethnic origin
Record of offences (in employment
● Place of origin
only)
● Creed
Sex (including pregnancy and
● Disability breastfeeding)

● Family status Sexual orientation.
● Age – 18-65 years (employment); 16+ years (housing); 18+ years (all other areas)

● Ancestry – family descent

● Citizenship – membership in a state or nation
● Colour – associated with race

● Creed – religion or faith

● Race – common descent or external features such as skin colour, hair texture, facial
characteristics

● Ethnic origin – social, cultural or religious practices drawn from a common past

● Place of origin – country or region
● Disability: There are two common ways of looking at what disability is. One way is to see a disability as a medical
condition that a person has. From this perspective, disability covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some
visible and some not visible. A disability may have been present from birth, caused by an accident, or developed over
time. There are physical, cognitive, mental and learning disabilities, mental disorders, hearing or vision disabilities,
epilepsy, drug and alcohol dependencies, environmental sensitivities, and other conditions.

● A newer way of looking at disability is that it is not something a person has. A person with a medical condition is not
necessary prevented (or disabled) from fully taking part in society. If society is designed to be accessible and include
everyone, then people with medical conditions often don’t have a problem taking part. From this point of view, disability
is a problem that occurs when a person’s environment is not designed to suit their abilities.
● Gender expression – the external attributes, behaviour, appearance, dress, etc. by
which people express themselves and through which others perceive that person’s
gender

● Gender identity – a person’s conscious sense of maleness and/or femaleness; this
sense of self is separate and distinct from biological sex

● Sex – discrimination can be sexual in nature, or because of pregnancy. This ground
includes the right to breastfeed in public areas or in the workplace

● Sexual orientation – includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, two-spirited,
questioning, etc.
● Marital status – applies equally to common-law, same-sex and opposite-sex
relationships; includes widowhood, separation, divorce

● Family status – a parent/child relationship

● Receipt of public assistance – in housing only

● Record of offences – provincial offences or pardoned federal offences (in employment
only)
Exceptions to the prohibited grounds

● An organization that serves a group protected by the Code, such as religious, educational or social
institutions serving ethnic groups, people with disabilities, religious groups, etc., may choose to employ
only members of that group

● An employer may choose to hire or not hire, or to promote or not promote his or her own spouse, child or
parent or the spouse, child or parent of an employee

● An employer may discriminate based on age, sex, record of offences or marital status if these are
genuine requirements of the job. For example, a shelter for abused women may choose to hire only
women as counsellors; a club may hire only male attendants to work in the men's locker room; or a child
care facility may refuse to hire someone convicted of a criminal offence based on the ground that the
hiring would pose a safety risk to the vulnerable individuals.
Bona fide job requirements

• Accommodation can be denied if a rule, standard or
practice is based on a bona fide occupational requirement
or a bona fide justification
• This means that a service or employer can technically
discriminate if the accommodation would cause UNDUE
HARDSHIP to the employer or service provider
• Ex, an airline may require its pilots to have a certain level
of uncorrected vision, hearing and manual dexterity in
order to land a plane with all its passengers, safely,
without instruments in an emergency. This requirement
could prevent persons with certain disabilities from being a
pilot.
Five common violations
• HARASSMENT
• SEXUAL HARASSMENT
• POISONED ENVIRONMENT
• CONSTRUCTIVE DISCRIMINATION
• SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION
HARASSMENT

• HARASSMENT – Engaging in a course of vexatious (annoying or provoking) comments or
conduct which is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome.

- We don’t have the right to impose our words or actions on someone if they are not
wanted
- It doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or unintentional, that is why the Code says “ought
reasonably to be known”
- EX: everyone is expected to know that racial or ethnic slurs or jokes are
unwelcome

- “Engaging in a course of” means it occurs more than once.
• SEXUAL HARASSMENT

• SEXUAL HARASSMENT: Occurs when someone receives sexual attention and the person
making the comments knows or should reasonably know that the comments or behaviour is
offensive.

- Every employee has the right to be free from sexual harassment from all in the
workplace. Many applications!

- Also applies to tenants & school situations
POISONED ENVIRONMENT

• POISONED ENVIRONMENT: Created by comments or conduct that ridicule or insult a person or group
protected under the Code.
- Also created for individuals at whom the insults are not necessarily directed. Heterosexual
offended by homophobic jokes

- It must be clearly evident that such behaviour is making people feel uncomfortable in a school or
work situation
CONSTRUCTIVE DISCRIMINATION

• CONSTRUCTIVE DISCRIMINATION: occurs when a seemingly neutral requirement has
discriminatory effects
• Ex. Minimum height, shaved faces, have to work on Saturdays

To avoid a finding of this, the employer or organization my prove that:
1) The requirement is bona fide – EXTREMELY necessary, in terms of safety, efficiency or
economy
AND
2) The person from a protected group can’t be accommodated without undue hardship
to the employer
SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION

• SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION: Systemic discrimination is discrimination that is part of the
social or administrative structures of many organizations, whether a business, service
organization or social institution, such as a school, hospital, government office, law court, etc.

• Systemic discrimination can be found in an organization’s policies or practices, and it may be
invisible. Even if unintended, it can deny whole groups of people their rights or exclude them
from taking part.
• For example: Biases against groups may mean that they are treated differently. For example,
an organization hires only women in clerical positions and only men in sales positions.