Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, you have a right to be free from being discriminated against in 5 protected social areas. Those areas are:
Goods, services and facilities
Membership in unions, trade or professional associations.
Discrimination is based on different protected grounds, that are against the law under the Code.
Those protected grounds are:
Ancestry, colour, race
Place of origin
Marital status (including single status)
Gender identity, gender expression
Receipt of public assistance (in housing only)
Record of offences (in employment only)
Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
Under the Code, your rights are not violated unless discrimination occurs in one of those social areas based on one or more protected grounds.
For example, the Code would not apply to you if you were treated differently than others at work due to a personality conflict. The Code would also not apply if the discriminatory remark was made by a stranger on a street, as that does not pertain to a specific social area.
That being said, you have a right to be free from discrimination when you go to stores, restaurants, bars, schools, hospitals, when you receive health services, and public places, such as recreational centres, and when you are obtaining services and programs provided by various governments in Ontario.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is a specialty tribunal which is set up to mediate and decide human rights cases. However, they are not the only tribunal or administrative body that can decide Human Rights Code issues. Different levels of courts can also decide human rights issues. You have a choice generally speaking, to choose which legal process to use to pursue your human rights case. Sometimes, you can choose more than one legal route or forum. For example, if you are an unionized employee who has experienced breach of human rights or discrimination, you could speak to your union about filing a grievance. Other employment issues may also be covered under the Employment Standards Act. The Ministry of Labour could look into such complaints. Various professionals such as doctors or nurses also have regulatory colleges which govern their conduct and they also have an internal complaints procedure. Other times, there may be criminal charges that are warranted, such as in cases of sexual harassment or sexual violence.
Human rights is a complicated area of law. You have to be careful to weigh the pros and cons when choosing a forum to proceed with your case. Sometimes but not all the time, you can proceed in more than one forum, but there are numerous rules that govern this. You should speak to a lawyer if you feel that you have been discriminated against or if there have been breaches to your human rights. A lawyer can help you figure out which avenue to pursue this matter, based on what you wish to accomplish. A lawyer can help you figure out what evidence you will need to proceed with your claim, explain to you how strong your claim is, how long the process takes, as well as the costs associated with proceeding with a claim.
Ready to get started? Key Legal has Ontario Human Rights Lawyers ready to help you either through Zoom meetings or by telephone. You can either book an appointment or request a lawyer on-demand. Just use our booking page or our chat feature to get started!