I think I have been discriminated against – at work, or in a store or restaurant, by a landlord or a government body. What can I do?
Discrimination is an action or a decision that results in unfair treatment of person or a group for unfair reasons such as their race, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. These unfair reasons are known as grounds of discrimination.
All provinces and territories in Canada have human rights laws that protect individuals in those jurisdictions from discrimination, in particular spaces and for particular grounds (reasons) that are listed in the laws.
What spaces am I protected in? In most provinces and territories, individuals are protected from discrimination in specific areas of social life: employment, accommodation (housing), and in the provision of goods and services (stores).
What are the grounds (unfair reasons) of discrimination? Though they vary across provinces and territories, grounds of discrimination can include race, age, sex, ethnic origin, family status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or having a criminal record. For the exact grounds of discrimination covered in your province or territory, please consult your provincial or territorial human rights body.
Harassment: Sexual harassment and harassment on the basis of race, religion, gender identity, etc. are all forms of discrimination. If you have experienced such harassment in a protected space (for example by a workplace supervisor or co-worker, a sales clerk, or the superintendent of your apartment), you may be able to make a discrimination complaint in the human rights system.
Who can help? Provincial and territorial human rights commissions and tribunals often provide a great deal of information and useful resources on their websites, and it may be helpful to contact them if you believe you have a discrimination claim. In addition, some provinces have legal support centres that will provide legal services to individuals who have experienced discrimination. (For the list of provincial and territorial human rights bodies, and their websites, please see: http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/eng/content/provincial-and-territorial-human-rights-agencies.)
Where do I complain? Individuals who feel that they have been discriminated against and would like to make a human rights complaint can do so through their human rights commission, or through their human rights tribunal, depending upon the province or territory’s system. (For the list of provincial and territorial human rights bodies, and their websites, please see: http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/eng/content/provincial-and-territorial-human-rights-agencies.)
The process to deal with discrimination will also differ depending on whether your place of work, or the service being provided, falls under the responsibility of the federal government, or under the responsibility of your province or territory. Most workplaces will fall under provincial or territorial jurisdiction – but if you are uncertain, you can contact your province or territory’s human rights commission or human rights tribunal to find out. (For the list of provincial and territorial human rights bodies, and their websites, please see: http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/eng/content/provincial-and-territorial-human-rights-agencies.)
If your employer or housing or the place where you accessed services is under federal jurisdiction, the Canadian Human Rights Act applies. If your workplace falls under the responsibility of a province or territory, it is the provincial or territorial human rights law that will apply instead.
The following is a list of employers and service providers under federal jurisdiction:
- federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations
- chartered banks
- airports and air transportation
- shipping and navigation (including loading and unloading vessels)
- television and radio stations
- interprovincial or international transportation of goods or passengers by road, railway or ferry
- uranium mining and processing
- grain handling
- First Nations governments and some other First Nations organizations
To learn about the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the process for making a complaint, go to : http://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/index.html.
The following is a list of employers and service providers under provincial/territorial jurisdiction:
- retail stores,
- health care,
- the oil and gas industry,
- provincial or territorial governments and departments.
For the list of provincial and territorial human rights bodies, and their websites, please see: http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/eng/content/provincial-and-territorial-human-rights-agencies.
We hope that you find this information helpful. The information provided is current to January 2017, and consists of general legal information. It is not legal advice. CCLA does not take responsibility for information found on external websites, even where we have provided links to that information. Everyone’s legal situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue, we recommend that you seek independent legal advice. You can find a list of legal clinics and other resources to help you here.