Human Rights Legal Support Centre

What is Discrimination?

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Grounds

A human rights claim must be directly linked to a ground as defined in the Code.


Race

Refers to a group of people of common ancestry, distinguished from others by physical characteristics such as colour of skin, shape of eyes, hair texture or facial features. The term is also used to design social categories into which societies divide people according to such characteristics. Racial, ethnic, religious and regional groups are rarely mutually exclusive, and the degree of discrimination varies from place to place, and over time.


Colour

Colour is listed as a ground in the Code but is undefined. A person’s skin colour can be seen as a physical feature that belongs to racialized persons. For the purposes of a Code ground, colour is encompassed by the concept of race.


Ancestry

The term ancestry refers to family descent. In other words, one’s ancestry must be determined through the lineage of one’s parents through their parents, and so on.


Place of origin

Birthplace.


Citizenship

Although there are some exceptions, the Code protects you from discrimination because of your citizenship in applying for jobs, housing or services.


Ethnic origin

Ethnicity: The many and varied beliefs, behaviours and traditions held in common by a group of people of a particular linguistic, historical, national, geographical, religious, racial and/or cultural origin.


Creed (religion)

To do with one’s religion, including beliefs, faith or worship. The belief in a God or Gods is not required within the definition of creed.


Receipt of social assistance (housing only)

In Ontario, if you receive social assistance (sometimes called welfare or family benefits or OW), you are protected from discrimination in your search for or maintenance of your housing.


Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation refers to a person’s emotional, physical, and/or sexual attraction to people of their own sex or the opposite sex.


Gender identity

Gender identity is linked to a person’s sense of self, and the sense of being male or female. A person’s gender identity is different from their sexual orientation, which is also protected under the Code. People’s gender identity may be different from their birth-assigned sex.


Gender expression

Gender expression refers to the external attributes, behaviour, appearance, dress, etc. by which people express themselves and through which others perceive that person’s gender.


Marital status

A person's marital status describes their relationship with a significant other, such as single, married , separated, widowed and cohabitating (a couple that is living together, yet unmarried with each other). This also includes same-sex couples.


Family status

A specific family type relationship protected under the Code from discrimination. The Code defines “family status” as “being in a parent and child relationship”. This can also mean a parent and child “type” of relationship, embracing a range of circumstances without blood or adoptive ties but with similar relationships of care, responsibility and commitment. Examples include parents/grandparents caring for children (also by adoption, fostering and step parenting), adults caring for aging parents or relatives with disabilities, and families headed by lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered persons.


Record of offenses (employment only, must have been pardoned)

Ontario’s Human Rights Code only applies to pardoned criminal offences in relation to employment. For greater clarity, if you have been charged with a criminal offense and your employer finds out about it, you do not have the protection of the Code because you must have been convicted and pardoned.


Age

Age is a protected ground under the Code, This means that you cannot be discriminated against because of your age where you work or live, or go to get a service.

Age is defined as being 18 years or older, or age 16 or older in housing if you have withdrawn from parental control. Some special programs and benefits, such as seniors’ discounts or youth employment programs, exist to address genuine age-related needs. However, when you are unjustifiably treated differently because of your age, that's age discrimination.


Disability

Any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness including lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device. Disability also includes mental impairment or a developmental disability.


Sex (includes being pregnant)

A legal status assigned at birth designating a person as either male or female based on their external genitalia and/or reproductive organs.

Under the Code, to be discriminated against on the basis of sex also includes being pregnant, sexual harassment, and gender identity.