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3. Current discrimination trends

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3.1 Profile of HRTO creed applications (2010-2012)

The OHRC reviewed all applications (formerly known as “complaints”) filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) citing creed as a ground of discrimination in the 2010-11 fiscal year (April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011), and 2011-12 fiscal year (April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012). We started with a list of applications that the HRTO collated from its case management database, and ended up including 179 applications for review in 2010-11, and 140 for review in 2011-12.[61]

Applications citing creed accounted for 6.8% of all HRTO applications filed in the 2011-12 fiscal year, up slightly from 6% in 2010-11 (see the Chart below and Appendix 22.1 for breakdown of HRTO applications filed in the 2011-12 and 2010-11 fiscal years by ground). While this number appears relatively low, it may not reflect the actual extent of discrimination experienced by various communities in Ontario, due to such factors as under-reporting, mis-reporting, and the unknown outcome of applications alleging discrimination.[62] HRTO application statistics reported on here provide a description of the number and nature of applications citing creed as a ground of discrimination filed at the HRTO. It is difficult to gauge how much this may reflect broader trends, in part for the above-mentioned factors.

2011-2012 HRTO applications by ground







Sex, pregnancy and gender identity








Ethnic origin


Place of origin


Family status




Sexual solicitation or advances




Marital status


Sexual orientation






Record of offences


Receipt of public assistance


No grounds


Source: HRTO, retrieved June 21, 2013, from

*The above chart shows the percentage of applications in which each prohibited ground under the Code is raised. Because many applications claim discrimination based on more than one ground, the totals in the chart far exceed the total number of applications received.

3.1.2 Applications by creed affiliation

In both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 fiscal years, Muslims accounted for the highest number of HRTO applications citing creed as a ground of discrimination, closely followed by Christians (of all denominations). According to the 2011 National Household Survey, Muslims made up 4.6% of Ontario’s population in 2011. Relative to their population size, Muslims were highly over-represented among HRTO applicants, accounting for more than one-third (36%) of all HRTO creed applications in 2011-12 and 31.8% in 2010-11 (see Appendix 22.2 and 22.5 for further details). This finding is consistent with research on the growth of Islamophobia and other discriminatory trends affecting Muslim communities, particularly following 9/11, as noted in Section 3.2.5 below. The review of HRTO applications, moreover, revealed that Muslims were not the only target of such trends. Several applications involved claims of discrimination by non-Muslims who alleged they were targeted because they were wrongly perceived to be Muslim. [63] This may show that race is a factor in anti-Muslim discrimination, when victims are discriminated against because of their outward appearance, rather than their actual beliefs (as discussed in Sections 3.2.3 and 3.2.5 below).

Number and percentage of HRTO applications citing creed by creed affiliation (2011-2012 fiscal year)

Pie chart shows the total number and percentage of HRTO applications citing creed by creed affiliation. The overall percentage is greater than 100 because some people identified more than one creed in their application. Muslims made up 50 or 35.7% of applications citing creed. Christians = 49 or 35%. Jewish = 15  or 10.7%. Misc. = 10 or 7.1%. Hindu = 10 or 7.1%. In 8 or 5.7% of applications no creed was identified.  In 7 or 5% of applications more than one creed was identified. Aboriginal spirituality = 4 or 2.9%. Sikh = 3 or 2.1%. Buddhist = 2 or 1.4%. Witchcraft = 2 or 1.4%. Non-religious = 1 or 0.7%.

*Miscellaneous: Elemental magic, Ethical veganism, Kabala, Membership in law society of Canada, Rastafarian, Taoism, Wiccan, Yoga system & cosmology, Zen, Zoroastrianism

While Christians overall are not over-represented among applicant groups relative to their population size,[64] they are involved in a significant number of HRTO cases, lending some credence to the perception that Christians may also feel like “minorities” at times in Ontario’s increasingly secular society (in some cases, despite being a majority). Among creed groups, Christians (of all denominations) [65] accounted for the second highest number of HRTO applications citing creed as a ground of discrimination, in both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 fiscal years. Some 35% of HRTO creed-based applications filed in 2011-12, and 26.8% filed in 2010-11, were from persons identifying with various Christian denominations (see Appendices 22.2, 22.3, 22.5, and 22.6 for further breakdown of applications by creed affiliation). Applicants self-identifying as “Roman Catholic” (9.3%) and simply “Christian” (9.3%) made up the largest number of Christian applicants in the 2011-12 fiscal year, followed by those identifying as Seventh Day Adventist (5.7%) and Christian Orthodox (2.9%) (see Appendix 22.3 for 2011-2012 breakdown of creed applications by Christian denominational affiliation). A similar pattern was evident in HRTO creed-based applications in the 2010-11 fiscal year (see Appendix 22.6).

Relative to their population size,[66] members of the Jewish (15 or 10.7%), Hindu (10 or 7.1%), Traditional Aboriginal (4 or 2.9%) and Sikh (3 or 2.1%) faiths accounted for a disproportionate number of 2011-2012 HRTO creed applications, as did a number of lesser known creed groups (e.g. Rastafarians, Raelians, and others grouped as “miscellaneous” in the graphs reporting on 2010-11 and 2011-12 HRTO creed applications; see Appendices 22.2 and 22.5 for for further details). People identifying as non-religious – whether atheist, agnostic or simply non-religious – accounted for a relatively small number (2 or 1.4%) of HRTO creed applications in 2011-12, but a larger portion (some 5%) in 2010-2011. In both fiscal years, a significant number of applicants did not identify with any particular creed (19 or 10.6% of creed applications in 2010-11 and 8 or 5.7% of creed applications in 2011-12).

The earlier discussed trend of increasing individualism, hybridity, and eclecticism in patterns of contemporary creed belief and practice was in part evident in the significant number of HRTO creed applications – some 5% or 7 in 2011-12 – in which the applicant identified with more than one creed (see Section 1.2 above and Appendix 22.4). There was also an observed tendency among some some applicants, particularly in 2011-12, to elevate what may appear to be more isolated opinions and beliefs to the level of a creed (e.g. belief in “being truthful”, “good business practice”, “fairness”, “respect and dignity for hard work” etc.) (see Appendix 22.5).

Intersecting grounds

Percentage of HRTO applications citing creed by intersecting grounds (2011-2012 fiscal year) 

Bar graph shows receipt of public assistance at 0.7%. Record of offences at 2.1%. Sexual solicitation or advances at 2.1%. Association at 2.9%. Marital status at 3.6%. Sexual orientation at 4.3%. Citizenship at 7.1%. Family status at 7.9%. Gender identity at 10.0%. Age at 11.4%. Sex at 11.4%. Disabiltiy at 22.1%. Reprisal or threat of reprisal at 25.7% and race and related grounds at 50.7%. In 28.6% of cases no intersecting grounds were cited.

A majority of HRTO creed applications - 50.7% in 2011-12, and 60.3% in 2010-11 - also cited a race-related ground in addition to creed (in order of frequency, ethnic origin, place of origin, race, ancestry, colour) (see graph above, and Appendices 22.7-22.10). Only 14% of HRTO creed applications in 2011-2012, and just over one-quarter (or 28.6%) in 2011-2012, only cited creed as a ground of discrimination. Such findings are consistent with research on the significant intersecting impact of ethnic and racial dynamics in discrimination based on creed (see section 3.2.3 for more discussion).

3.1.3 Social areas

Number and percentage of HRTO applications citing creed by social area (2011-2012 fiscal year)

Pie chart shows the social area of employment  cited 102 times or 72.9%. Goods, services and facilities cited 34 times or 24.3%. Housing cited 4 times or 2.9%. Associations cited 3 times or 2.1%. Contracts cited = 2 times or 1.4%.

All human rights applications must cite a Code “social area” as well as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Almost 73% of all 2011-2012 HRTO applications citing creed, and 62% of 2010-2011 HRTO creed applications, identified employment as the social area. The area of services, goods and facilities was cited in 24.3% of 2011-12 creed applications, and housing accounted for almost 3%.

HRTO creed applications compared to all HRTO applications by social area (2011-2012 fiscal year)

Bar graph shows 76.4% of all HRTO applications were employment releated and 72.9% of all creed-related applications were emloyment related. 21.0% of all HRTO applications were related to goods, services or facilities and 24.3% of all creed applications were related to goods, services or facilities. 5.0% of all HRTO applications were related to housing and 2.9% of all creed applications were related to housing. 0.7% of all HRTO applications were related to contracts and 1.4% of creed applications were related to contracts. 0.7% of all HRTO applications were related to Associations and 2.1% of all creed applications were related to associations.

The distribution of creed applications across social areas is broadly consistent with larger trends in HRTO applications. While most creed applications, like all HRTO applications, occur in the social area of employment, when compared to all applications in this period, creed applications are slightly over-represented in the area of services[67] and under-represented in employment (see above graph and Appendix 22.11, 22.12). This discrepancy is even greater in 2010-2011 applications (see Appendix 22.13 and 22.14).

3.1.4 Accommodation

Our review of the 2011-2012 HRTO creed applications revealed that religious accommodation issues, mostly in employment contexts, featured prominently (in just over 42% of creed applications) among the kinds of discrimination issues alleged in applications (see the graph below). Though not systematically tracked in the same way, incidents of harassment and differential/prejudicial treatment based on creed were also fairly commonly alleged in creed applications.

Percentage of HRTO creed applications citing creed accomodation (2011-2012 fiscal year)

Pie chart shows that during the 2011-2012 fiscal year the majority of creed applications (57.9%) did not involve a creed accommodation issue. During the same period, 42.1% of creed applications did involve a creed accommodation issue.

3.1.5 Sex

The 2011-2012 review of HRTO creed applications tracked applications by the sex of applicants (where indicated, based on self-identification) and found that a greater number of these applicants were male (57.1%) compared to female (34.3%). It is difficult to infer the extent to which this may reflect wider trends in creed discrimination. Such differences in the numbers of applications filed by males compared to females could reflect a variety of causes (including, potentially, the greater propensity for men to report alleged incidents of discrimination). The extent to which this pattern in reporting is unique, or similar to wider trends in HRTO applications, cannot currently be determined, since the HRTO does not track demographic information on the sex of applicant groups.

Percentage of HRTO applications citing creed by sex (2011-2012 fiscal year)

Pie chart shows that 34.3% of creed applications were filed by women and 57.1% were filed by men. In 8.6% of cases, the applicant did not indicate their sex.

3.1.6 Geographical distribution

Most applications citing creed were from applicants in the central (47.1%) and Toronto (30.7%) region, perhaps reflecting, at least in part, the greater ethnic and religious diversity in these regions, compared to other regions (see graph below, and Appendix 22.16 ). The top five locations for 2010-11 creed-based HRTO applications were: Toronto (accounting for 45% of all applications); Mississauga (8.3%); Ottawa (4.7%); Brampton (4.1%), and London and Richmond Hill, which each accounted for 2.3% of all 2010-11 HRTO creed applications (see Appendix 22.18).[68]

Geographical distribution of HRTO applications citing creed (2011-2012 fiscal year)

Pie chart shows 66 applications or 47.1% of creed-based applications came from the Central Ontario region. 43 or 30.7% came from Toronto. 14 or 10% came from Eastern Ontario. 13 or 9.3% came from Western Ontario and 4 applications or 2.9% came from Northern Ontario.

Relative to the geographical distribution of all HRTO applications, a disproportionate number of creed applications in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 were from applicants in the Toronto and Central Ontario region (see Appendices 22.17 and 22.18).[69]

[61] The HRTO identified applications where applicants checked the box for creed on the application form. Upon further OHRC review of these applications, we discovered that not all of the applications we recieved from the HRTO actually cited creed as a ground. Those that did not were not reviewed.

[62] Under-reporting of discrimination is a well-known phenomenon in the human rights world, as has also been observed in the reporting of hate crimes. Also, this general under-reporting tendency may be more prominent among newer Canadians. Many newcomers belong to creed minority groups, who are less familiar with, and/or who may feel less empowered or equipped to navigate and use the Ontario human rights legal system. Furthermore, since discrimination based on creed is often intertwined with discrimination based on other sometimes closely inter-related grounds (e.g. ethnic origin, race, colour, place of origin, ancestry), it is possible that cases involving creed are also being reported under other human rights grounds.

[63] The creed of the applicant was determined by how applicants self-identified in applications. In some cases, applicants were discriminated against because of their perceived creed, which in some cases was different than their actual creed. In such cases, the perceived creed was counted, because of our interest in the bases’ of discrimination on the ground of creed.

[64] The total number of persons identifying as Christian (including all denominations) in Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) was 8,167,295 or 64.55% of the total population (Statistics Canada 2013). Roman Catholics made up 31.43% of Ontarians in the 2011 NHS, followed by persons affiliated with various Protestant denominations, who comprised 30.77% (or 3,892,965) of Ontario’s population (if we aggregate, in order of their size, “Other Christian”, United Church, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal, and Lutheran denominations as reported in the 2011 NHS).

[65] The category of “Christian” is a composite category that we created to cover all Christian denominations. It does not refer simply to persons self-identifying specifically as “Christian” by affiliation.

[66] According to the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), the Jewish population accounted for 1.55% of Ontario’s population in 2011. Jews, however, accounted for a disrproportionate 10.7% of HRTO creed applications in 2011-12. While 0.13% (or 15,905) of Ontario’s population were affiliated with “Traditional (Aboriginal) Spirituality” in the 2011 NHS, applications involving Aboriginal Spirituality comprised 2.9% (or 4) of all HRTO applications citing creed as a ground of discrimination in the 2011-12 fiscal year. Hindus and Siks constitute 2.9% and 1.42% of the Ontario population respectively, according to the 2011 NHS, while accounting for 7.1% and 2.1% of HRTO applications citing creed as a ground of discrimination in the 2010-11 fiscal year.

[67] Typically, services applications allege discrimination in public institutions such as health care, education and policing more often than other private services such as hospitality, dining and entertainment. But we do not have any data to confirm this is this case here.

[68] The OHRC’s review of 2010-11 HRTO creed applications classified applications by city in which the incident occurred, as revealed in the “Location of Discrimination” question in 7b of HRTO’s application form. These findings are not comparable with how the HRTO reports its application data, by region, or how we have here reported on the 2011-12 HRTO creed applications, both of which classify region by postal code. This data, however, does give a more precise sense of where allegations of discrimination are occurring.

[69] The HRTO’s data for 2010-2011 suggest that Toronto is over-represented in applications alleging discrimination because of creed. In 2010/11, 27% of all applications filed were from Toronto, as compared to 44.6 % of all creed applications reviewed.


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