Human Rights Legal Support Centre

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Human Rights and Services

Ontario’s Human Rights Code and goods services and facilities: do you think you have been discriminated against or harassed when getting services?

This is general information only. It is not legal advice about your situation.

What is considered a “good, service or facility” under the Code?

You have the right to equal treatment and freedom from harassment when buying a product, getting a service, or using a building or facility that is open to the public. This includes public transit, hospitals, schools, public washrooms, police services and privately-owned services or facilities, such as theaters or restaurants.

Unfair treatment must be linked to a ground in the Code. For example, a theatre or community centre has to be accessible to you if you use a wheelchair or other mobility device.

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My daughter has a learning disability and needs extra time to complete her tests. The school says it would be unfair to give her more time than the other students. Is that a Human Rights Code issue?

Yes. Human rights is about equality, and equality does not mean always treating everyone the same way. In this case, the school may have an obligation to “accommodate” your daughter’s disability by providing her with extra time. You may have to provide the school with a note from your daughter’s doctor.

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A restaurant refused to serve me because they said I looked like a drug addict. I explained that I have a muscular disorder but they ordered me to leave. What should I do?

You may want to file a human rights application against the restaurant. The restaurant may have discriminated against you on the basis of your disability. If you file an application, the Tribunal will want to know exactly what happened, what the restaurant staff person said to you and whether you spoke to the manager.

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A security guard at the mall asked my son for his identification in front of five of his friends and demanded that he leave the area. He didn’t ask for anyone else’s ID and he didn’t ask the other teens to leave. My son is Black and his friends are all white. Is that discrimination?

It could be that the security service discriminated against your son on the basis of race in the area of services. In this kind of a situation, it could be that the security guard engaged in what is called “racial profiling.” The Commission defines racial profiling as “any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection that relies on stereotypes about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, or place of origin, or a combination of these, rather than on a reasonable suspicion, to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment.”

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I am a man who dresses as a woman. The agency I have been going to for help said my dressing as a woman bothers the other people in the waiting room and they don’t want to serve me anymore. Can they exclude me because other people have complained?

No. A business, landlord, employer or professional association cannot rely on “customer preference” to exclude you.

Amendments to Ontario’s Human Rights Code in 2012 added gender identity and gender expression to the prohibited grounds of discrimination.

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