Human Rights 101

Learn about your rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

This module provides a basic understanding of rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code. It's for information only. The module takes about 30 minutes. To begin, click on the video “Welcome to Human Rights 101.”

 If you would like a certificate of completion, please select the “Flash” tab in Part B.

For human rights concerns, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, a community legal clinic, or a lawyer may be able to help you with your application and/or provide legal advice.

 
Welcome page
Welcome
To Part A
Part A
About Human Rights
 
 
To Part B
Part B

The Code

To Part C
Part C

The Human Rights System

 
 

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Cover photo. Links to Human Rights 101 (2014 ed.)
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Human Rights 101

Welcome to Human Rights 101

Introduction
Welcome to Human Rights 101. Human Rights 101 is for information only. If you have a human rights concern, please contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre or a community legal clinic. For legal advice, please contact a lawyer.

Slide 001
Welcome to Human Rights 101. Human Rights 101 provides a basic understanding of rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Slide 002
In Human Rights 101, I'll introduce you to the principles and concepts of human rights, and how to recognize different types of discrimination. You'll have an overview of the Ontario Human Rights Code, with some examples of how it can be applied, and I'll introduce you to Ontario's Human Rights System.

Slide 003
Why do we need to know about human rights? We need to know about the Code because we all have rights and responsibilities to make sure that everyone is treated equally and without discrimination.

Slide 004
Human Rights are for everyone. Human Rights touch our lives every day. We want a healthy workplace. Our friends and family come from around the world, they may be getting older, or have a disability. Our children's friends may have same-sex parents, or one parent.

How to...
Human Rights 101 has three units. Unit A is About Human Rights. It looks at where the Code came from, and what kinds of discrimination the Code covers. Unit B is on the Ontario Human Rights Code and looks at rights and responsibilities and how to know when discrimination happens. Unit C is on Ontario's human rights system and explains where to go if you need help fighting discrimination.

Click the red, About button, to continue to section A, "About Human Rights." Click the blue Code button to continue to section B, "The Ontario Human Rights Code." Click the dark green System button to continue to section C, "Ontario's Human Rights System." Click the yellow Policies and Guidelines button to skip to a list of eLearning units on other Ontario Policies and Guidelines. Click the grey Test Yourself button to continue to assess your knowledge and learning before and after your visit.

The green arrow button, marked Play or Continue, always takes you to the next section on the program. Don't forget, you can also use the controls along the bottom to access further navigation features, to pause the module, or to turn the audio off or on. The CC button opens or closes the closed captioning panel. The button labelled TOC opens and closes a table of contents with which you can quickly jump to any slide in the module. You can also drag the "progress meter" back and forth with your mouse pointer.

Not every button shown here appears in every slide... when that happens other buttons will be provided, or you can use the menu on the left side of the Web page marked "Table of Contents." Now I'll wait for you to tell me where you wish to start today.

Human Rights 101 Part A - About Human Rights

hr101-A00-about
Unit A “About Human Rights” has two sections. “Foundations of the Code” and “What is Discrimination.”

Where the Code Comes From
 “Foundations of the Code” discusses the international, national, and provincial foundations of the Ontario Human Rights Code. Under international law, we all have human rights, and so the Code’s Preamble refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Code also looks to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees people the people of Canada certain political and civil rights.

History Background
After World War II, Ontario politicians and citizens lobbied for legislation to protect human rights, and it was one of the first provinces to introduce: The Racial Discrimination Act (1944), The Fair Employment Practices Act (1951), and The Fair Accommodation Practices Act (1954). In 1962, these Acts were brought together under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Discrimination
What is discrimination? Discrimination is treating somebody badly because of their race, disability, sex or other personal characteristics. Discrimination has many forms. Discrimination can target one person, or a group. It can be hard to see or be part of a system.

Direct
Direct discrimination means discriminating against someone because you think they are different from you. It includes practices or behaviours that have a negative effect of a person or a group of people who belong to a ground listed under the Code. It doesn't matter that you didn't intend to treat them differently. What matters is whether your actions or what you said results in discrimination.

Indirect
Constructive discrimination may happen when certain demands or requirements that seem to be fair actually keep groups listed in the Code out, or gives them special treatment over others.

Systemic
Discrimination may be part of a system, like how decisions are made, and the practices and policies, or the culture of the organization. For example, the head of the company likes golf, and only wants to promote managers who play golf. Think about who gets invited to the golf game.

Reprisal
Reprisal means taking action, or threatening to take action against someone who has a human rights complaint, or who is a witness to the discrimination, and is not allowed under the code. You cannot be punished or threatened with punishment for trying to make a complaint, filing a human rights application, filing a human rights grievance, or acting as a witness at a human rights hearing.

Poisoned Environment
A poisoned environment is created when comments or actions based on grounds listed in the code make you feel unwelcomed or uncomfortable at work. It poisons the workplace. Sometimes all it takes is one comment to poison the environment.

Harassment
Harassment under the code means "a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonable to be known to be unwelcome." Harassment usually meets the following requirements: What was said or the behaviour usually happened more than once. The person responsible for the comment or conduct should have known that it is not welcome. Sometimes it’s hard to tell someone to stop, so if you don’t or can’t, the code doesn’t require you to do so.

Racial Profiling
Racial profiling happens when you take action because you're worried about safety, for security reasons, or for the public's protection, and your decision is based on stereotypes about a person's race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion or place of origin.

Review
Discrimination happens it many ways. It can be direct, indirect (sometimes called constructive), or systemic. Discrimination can also be things like reprisal, a poisoned environment, harassment, or racial profiling.
 

Human Rights 101 Part B - The Ontario Human Rights Code

If you would like a certificate of completion, please make sure you select the “Flash” tab.

The Code Let's move on to Unit B. Unit B is on the Ontario Human Rights Code. It covers the different parts of the Code. We'll discuss the Preamble and parts 1 and 2 of the Code. I'll also take you through the social areas and protected grounds, and you'll see how the Code can be applied. Before we look at the Code, I want to explain some key concepts that you should know. These will help you have a better understanding of how the Code works to protect human rights. Key Concepts There are 4 key concepts... important things to know. The Code has "Primacy." Click the button to find out what this means. The Code is "Remedial." Click the button to find out what this means. The Code considers effect not intent. Click the button to find out what this means. The Code is "Provincial." Click the button to find out what this means. Primacy First, the Code has primacy. This means that if there is a conflict between the Code and other provincial laws, you must comply the Code first, unless there is a specific exception. Remedial Second, the Code is Remedial. This means that the Code is not meant to punish. Instead, it tries to remove discrimination and prevent it by educating the public and creating awareness. Effect Not Intent Third, under the Code it doesn't matter if you didn't intend or mean to discriminate. The Code considers the consequence or effect of what is said or the behaviour, not the intention. Provincial Fourth, the Code covers work, housing and services that are registered under provincial law. The Canadian Human Rights Act covers workplaces or services that are registered under federal law, such as banks, Canada Post, the airlines and the federal government. Key Concepts Review Let's have a quick review of the 4 points I just covered: The Code has primacy. The Code is remedial. The Code considers effect, not intent. The Code covers areas that come under provincial laws. [hover 1] Primacy means that the Code is more important than most other laws. In other words, if there is a conflict between the Code and other provincial laws, you must follow the Code first, unless there is also a specific exception written in provincial law. [hover 2] The Code is remedial. This means it is meant to make bad situations better, not to punish. Instead, it tries to remove discrimination and prevent it by education people and creating awareness. [hover 3] Under the Code it doesn’t natter if you didn’t intend or mean to discriminate. The Code looks at what actually happened, not the intention. [hover 4] This means the Code applies to work, housing and services that are covered by provincial laws. Workplaces or services that are covered by federal laws, such as banks, Canada Post, the airlines and the federal government are covered by the Canadian Human Rights Act instead. Basic Rights Responsibilities Now that I’ve introduced you to some key concepts, let's move on to the Code and Basic Rights and Responsibilities. Preamble At the beginning of the code is the Preamble. The Preamble to the Code is important. It states that it is public policy in Ontario that we can all live, work, and play with dignity, can contribute to society, and have equal access to opportunities, without discrimination. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reflects human rights values in Canada and around the world. For this reason, wording from this important document appears in the Preamble of Ontario's Code. Social Areas After the Preamble comes Part 1. Many people don’t know that the Code only protects them in specific situations. Part 1 is the section of the Code that ensures all Ontarians the right to enjoy freedom from decimation in 5 specific areas, called “social areas,” and on specific grounds of discrimination. [Slide 2] Place your mouse over the two panels to see a list of items we’ll be discussing in the next several slides. The 5 social areas covered by the code are: Services, goods and facilities Housing accommodation Contracts Employment Vocational Associations. Part 1 of the Code lists the grounds of discrimination. You cannot discriminate against another person or a group of people because of their citizenship, race, place of origin, ethnic origin, colour, ancestry, disability, age, creed, sex/pregnancy, family status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, receipt of public assistance – in housing only, and record of offence – in employment only. On June 19, 2012, two new grounds were added to the Code, “gender identity” and “gender expression”. There is overlap between the two grounds and their precise meaning is still being explored. [Slide 3] The five social areas covered by the Code are: Services, goods and facilities, housing accommodation, contracts, employment, and vocational associations. [Bullet 1 audio = Slide 4] [Bullet 2 audio = Slide 5] [Bullet 3 audio = Slide 7] [Bullet 4 audio = Slide 8] [Bullet 5 audio = Slide 9] [Slide 4] Services may include... Stores, restaurants and bars; Hospitals and health services; Schools, universities and colleges; Public places and their facilities, such as community centres, public washrooms, libraries, malls and parks; Municipal and provincial government services and programs such as social assistance and benefits, and public transit; Services provided by insurance companies; and classified ads in a newspaper. [Slide 5] Accommodation may include: buying, selling, renting or being evicted from an apartment, house, condominium, commercial office or hotel. [Slide 6] You have the Right to Equal Treatment when buying, selling, renting, or being evicted from an apartment, house, condominium, commercial office, or a hotel. This includes being able to enter the building, such as the doors, using the swimming pools or the laundry room. A landlord can't refuse to rent to a tenant who is on public assistance, family benefits or a disability pension. [Slide 7] A contract is a legal agreement either in writing or spoken. Everyone has a right to be part of a contract on equal terms. [Slide 8] 'Employment' is interpreted broadly, and covers everything from hiring to firing. It can include licensing, training, promotions and dismissal, overtime, vacations, sick benefits, discipline, performance evaluations. The Code can apply to employees and after-hours work and when employees are not at their workplace. [Slide 9] Everyone has a right to join and to be treated equally in a union, professional association or other vocational association. Grounds Part 1 of the code lists the grounds of discrimination. You cannot discriminate against another person or group of people because of their: citizenship, race, place of origin, ethnic origin, colour, ancestry, disability, age, creed, sex or pregnancy, family status, marital status, sexual orientation, receipt of public assistance - in housing only, or record of offence - in employment only. Race-related grounds include: ethnic origin, colour and place of origin. In some instances, it may also include citizenship and ancestry. Disability includes temporary and permanent disabilities, being in receipt of Workers Safety and Insurance Benefits in the past or at present, learning disabilities, visible, invisible and perceived disabilities. Age - for housing, you have to be 18 unless you are no longer under parental control. Creed includes religions and beliefs. Sex includes pregnancy and gender, that is, persons who are bisexual, transgenderists, trans-sexual or inter-sexed. Family status is the status of being in a parent - child relationship. Marital status includes being single, married, widowed, co-habiting and same-sex marriages. Sexual orientation includes persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual. Receipt of social assistance applies only to housing accommodation and includes for example, being in receipt of government-funded subsidies or living in supportive housing. Record of offenses includes provincial offenses such as under the Highway Traffic Act, and federal offenses for which a pardon has been granted. Discrimination Discrimination also includes: Intersecting grounds, which means treating people differently on more than one ground because of association, which means treating people differently because a friend or family member identifies with the ground. Perceived grounds, which means treating people differently because of a belief that they identify with a Code ground, when in fact, they don't. Review Let’s review the Preamble and Part 1 of the Code. The Preamble is important because it states that it is public policy in Ontario to respect the dignity and worth of every person, to create a climate of mutual understanding, and that we all have equal rights and opportunities so that we can fully participate in society. Part 1 of the Code covers freedom from discrimination and sets out the social areas and the prohibited grounds of discrimination. Part 1 also includes other forms of discrimination such as intersecting grounds, discrimination because of association and perceived discrimination. [bullet 1] The Preamble is strongly influenced by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, and contains much of the same wording. It says every person should be treated with respect, allowed to contribute to society and given equal rights and opportunities, without discrimination. [bullet 2 audio in B4b, slide 2] [bullet 3 audio in B4b, slide 2] [bullet 4 audio = B4d] Applying the Code Part 2 of the Code explains how the Code is interpreted and applied. It also sets out the exceptions to the Code. Exceptions are very specific situations where the Code allows you to treat people differently based on Code grounds. In Human Rights 101, we'll look at the definition of: Harassment under Section 10, the Duty to Accommodate under Section 17, Special Programs under Section 14, Special Interest Organizations under Section 18, and Special Employment under Section 24. The remarks in parentheses refer to sections of the Ontario Human Rights Code R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER H.19, which is available on the Internet in its entirety from e-Laws. Harassment [slide 1] This is the Code definition of harassment. Section 10 defines harassment as “a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.” Let’s break down this definition. Harassment can be based on any prohibited ground and any of the social areas. Harassment can be words or actions, usually happens more than one time, is known or should be known to be unwelcome. [slide 2] Remember, the Code looks at the effect or consequence of the words or behaviour not whether or not there was an intention to harass or discriminate. Employers and service providers are responsible for preventing and stopping harassment [slide 3] Harassment can result in a poisoned environment. Sending offensive emails to everyone in the office, or posting an offensive message on the bulletin board can be harassing and poison a workplace. [slide 4] Harassment can be costly. There’s a business cost and a personal cost. When people are harassed it can make them sick. They may miss work or quit their job. For companies, harassment can result in low production. It means spending more on benefits and can create a bad reputation. [slide 5] Employers and service providers are responsible for preventing and stopping harassment. Do this with policies and training. Be informed about the Code. Act right away to stop harassment. [slide 6] What to do if you are harassed. If there is an anti-harassment policy, follow the instructions. If you can, tell the person to stop. Tell your supervisor, manager, union steward, or human resources. Make good notes and keep them safe. If the behaviour is criminal, call the police. Duty to Accommodate [1] Let’s move on to the Duty to Accommodate short of undue hardship. The Duty to Accommodate considers the Principles of Accommodation and the Standard of Accommodation. [2] Accommodation means making special arrangements for some people, so they can have the same opportunities as everyone else. For example, flexible working hours or a ramp into a building can make a big difference. Employers and services providers have a legal duty to accommodate people based on grounds of the Code. They must accommodate people in a respectful and dignified way so they don’t face barriers. They must look at each case separately to see if there is a solution. Not every situation has an easy solution. A person or company providing accommodation does not have to make an accommodation that would cause "undue hardship." Something that was so expensive that it put a company out of business or created a health and safety danger for others would be an "undue hardship." To summarize, under the Code the expectation is the 'duty to accommodate', and the standard is 'short of undue hardship'. [3] Accommodation is a two-way street. The employer and employee both have obligations under the Duty to Accommodate. The employee makes the request, explains what is needed and why, provides necessary information on restrictions and limitations, discusses possible accommodation solutions, cooperates with experts if required, agrees to meet work standards, and continues working with the employer to manage the accommodation process. From the employer’s part, the employer accepts the request in good faith, respects the employee’s dignity, assesses needs, and considers undue hardship. New site: Same text but rearranged. Special Interest Special interest organizations. The Code allows certain organizations to limit services or facilities on specific grounds. These organizations include: Philanthropic or charitable groups, Educational organizations such as religious colleges, fraternal organizations such as mutual aid societies, or social institutions such as the Japanese or Estonian community centres. Special Employment The Code allows special employment for certain types of organizations. These groups may hire people who identify with the same Code grounds as the people they serve. They include: Educational organizations such as religious colleges, fraternal organizations such as mutual aid societies, and social organizations such as a cultural clubs that serves a particular ethnic group. Discrimination Under the Code How do you know if you have a valid human rights complaint? Social Areas and Grounds are linked Ask these questions: Did the problem happen in one of the five "social areas?" Is one of the 15 grounds also involved? Is there a link between the social area and ground? Were you treated differently from other people? Is your complaint believable? Answering 'yes' to each question, even without an answer from the person or company you are complaining against, may be enough to have the Human Rights Tribunal look at the complaint. You can make a complaint, called filing an application, to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, or if you want legal advice before making a complaint, contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. Differential Treatment Allegations Believable If you file a human rights application, the person or organization you have complained about will be asked to explain what has happened. Review Test yourself on the Ontario Human Rights Code, identifying discrimination. Indentifying discrimination under the Code requires knowing the three forms of discrimination, the five social areas, and the 15 prohibited grounds under which the Code prohibits discrimination. Roll your mouse over the icons to review. Click play to take the quiz.

Human Rights 101 Part C - The Ontario Human Rights System

System
Unit C is on Ontario's human rights system. When the Ontario Human Rights Code was introduced in 1962, the Ontario Human Rights Commission was responsible for enforcing the Code. Since then, the Code has expanded and changed. Ontario's Human Rights system now includes 3 separate groups. Each group has a different job. The three organizations are: the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Three Pillars
Ontario's Human Rights system now includes 3 separate groups. Each group has a different job. The three organizations are: the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

OHRC
The Ontario Human Rights Commission develops policies, provides public education, monitoring and community outreach, and conducting inquiries. Policies are important because they help to understand the Code. If you appear before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario you can ask that the Commission's policies be considered.

HRLSC
The Human Rights Legal Support Centre can help you file an application and may represent you at the Tribunal.

HRTO
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is where applications, also called applications, are filed. An adjudicator looks at your human rights concerns, considers the evidence, and makes a decision.