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Family and marital status

The Code includes two grounds that provide protections for persons in relationships: marital status and family status. “Marital status” is defined in section 10 of the Code as “the status of being married, single, widowed, divorced or separated and includes the status of living with a person in a conjugal relationship outside marriage”, including both same-sex and opposite sex relationships.

Family status” is defined as “the status of 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.

The grounds of marital and family status intersect to cover a range of family forms, including lone parent and blended families, as well as families where the parents are in a ‘common law’ relationship. 

Relevant policy:

  1. Family status and the Ontario Human Rights Code (fact sheet)

    2007 - The Ontario Human Rights Commission has interpreted the ground of family status as protecting a range of families and familial relationships from discrimination. It protects parents from being discriminated against because they have children; it also protects adult children who experience discrimination because they are caring for their aging parents. It protects non-biological parent and child relationships, such as those formed through adoption, fostering, and step-parenting, as well as lone parent families, and those headed by LGBT persons.

  2. Policy and guidelines on discrimination because of family status

    March 2007 - This Policy sets out the Commission’s position on discrimination on the basis of family status as it relates to the provisions of the Code. It deals only with issues that fall within the Code and that could be the subject of a human rights complaint. At the same time, the Policy interprets the protections of the Code in a broad and purposive manner, consistent with the principle that the quasi-constitutional status of the Code requires that it be given a liberal interpretation that best ensures its anti-discriminatory goals are attained. The Commission’s Consultation Report contains a broader examination of social policy issues affecting persons disadvantaged by family status.
  3. Commission appeals advance human rights law (fact sheet)

    June 2006 - Over the past ten years, the Commission has been involved in 72 judicial review decisions, 32 decisions on appeal at the Divisional Court, 40 decisions from the Court of Appeal, and 17 from the Supreme Court of Canada. As of March 31, 2006, the Commission was litigating 462 cases at the Tribunal, eight cases before the Divisional Court, three in the Ontario Court of Appeal, and two before the Supreme Court of Canada.

  4. Human rights and family status (brochure)

    2012 - The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) provides for equal rights and opportunities, and freedom from discrimination based on various grounds. The Code recognizes the dignity and worth of every person in Ontario, in employment, housing, facilities and services, contracts, and membership in unions, trade or vocational associations. The Code protects you from discrimination in these areas based on your family status.

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