What is discrimination?
Discrimination is when someone or a group of persons is treated unfairly or unequally. Harassment is a type of discrimination and involves someone saying or doing things to offend or humiliate someone else. The law does not protect from discrimination in all situations; for example, the law does not usually protect someone from discrimination in their personal relationships with friends or family.
When does the law protect someone from discrimination?
The Ontario Human Rights Code (“the Code”) is the law that sets out when someone is protected from discrimination in Ontario.
The Code protects against discrimination in the following “social areas”:
- Housing (such as renting an apartment)
- Goods, services, and facilities (such as in stores, restaurants, hospitals, and police)
- Contracts (such as an agreement to buy a bicycle or a cell phone)
- Membership in a union or a professional association for your job
What kind of discrimination does the Code protect people from?
The Code protects people if they experience discrimination connected to of one of the below “grounds”:
- Place of origin (where you come from)
- Ethnicity (race, biological and cultural background)
- Creed (religion / beliefs)
- Sex, including sexual harassment and pregnancy
- Sexual orientation*
- Gender identity*
- Gender expression*
- Family status
- Marital status
- Receipt of public assistance, such as Ontario Works – this applies to housing only
- Record of offences – this only includes convictions where a pardon or record suspension has been granted; and this also only applies to employment
Is it discrimination if I am treated unfairly because of other people in my life?
Being treated unfairly or unequally because of other people in your life is discrimination if the other people are identified by one of the grounds in the Code. For example, a landlord cannot refuse to rent you an apartment because your parents are from a different country (“place of origin”) or because of the “gender identity” of your girl-/boy-friend/partner.
What is an “accommodation”?
“Accommodation” is the word used to describe the different or special arrangements that must be made by an employer, service provider or landlord to ensure that someone is not treated unfairly or unequally. For example, accommodating a student in a wheelchair by building a wheelchair access ramp at school, or accommodating a student with a learning disability by giving them more time to write tests or hand in their homework.
Do I always have to be accommodated?
Employers, service providers and landlords must always accommodate you unless they can show it would cause them “undue hardship”. Undue hardship means that it would be too difficult or expensive to accommodate you. Undue hardship is a complex legal principle. If someone is telling you that they cannot accommodate you for this reason, you should talk to a lawyer.