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Sex

The Code does not specifically define the ground of “sex,” but the OHRC considers it to be related to a person’s biological sex, male or female. Men and women receive equal protection under this ground. The ground of “sex” also includes a broader notion of “gender,” which can be described as the social characteristics attributed to each sex.

The Code protects men and women from harassment and discrimination, including assumptions about their abilities that result from stereotypes about how men and women ”should” behave, dress or interact. The right to equal treatment without discrimination because of sex also applies to pregnancy.

Relevant policies: 

  1. Pregnancy

    From: Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

    The Code protects a woman because she is or was pregnant, may become pregnant, has just had a baby or other pregnancy-related situations.[27] Pregnancy includes the process of having a baby from conception up to the period following childbirth. It also includes the post-delivery period and breastfeeding.

    The term “pregnancy” takes into account all the special needs and circumstances of a pregnant woman and recognizes that the experiences of women will differ. Special needs can be related to:

  2. Can I fire a woman whose pregnancy is preventing her from doing the job she was hired to do?

    From: Frequently asked questions

    It is discrimination if you fire, demote or lay off an employee because she is or may become pregnant or she is away on maternity leave or disability leave related to pregnancy. Employers have a duty to accommodate a pregnant woman unless it would cause undue hardship. This may include changing her job duties temporarily or providing time off work.

  3. Restrictions of facilities by sex

    From: Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

    This section allows separate washrooms, examination areas, change rooms and other services that are men-only or women-only. Trans people should be provided access to facilities that are consistent with their lived gender identity.[34]


    [34] For more information, see the OHRC’s Policy on discrimination and harassment because of gender identity (2000).

  4. Policy on discrimination because of pregnancy and breastfeeding

    December 2008 - The Policy examines the different ways in which women experience discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Discrimination may take place in employment, in housing accommodation, or in the receipt of services, goods and facilities. Discriminatory behaviour may be rooted in negative attitudes and stereotypes. It may be direct, or it may be subtle. It may be systemic or institutional. It may arise out of a failure to accommodate the needs of a woman relating to pregnancy or breastfeeding. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may also experience harassment and poisoned environments where they work, live or where they receive services.
  5. Policy on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment

    May 2013 - Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex. The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sex, and includes provisions that focus on sexual harassment. The principles set out in this policy will, depending on the circumstances, apply to instances of sexual harassment in any of the social areas covered by the Code. However, to reflect the most important recent developments in the law and in social science research, this policy will focus on the areas of employment, housing and education.

  6. 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.

  7. 9.3. Intersections with sex

    From: Minds that matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions

    There is a close connection between mental health disabilities, addictions and gendered violence. Women who are survivors of violence, trauma and abuse often face substance use and mental health issues.[61] Several women reported gender-based violence related to having a mental health history. Some said they were sexually harassed or assaulted by patients or staff while hospitalized for a psychiatric disability.

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