This document explains the legal backdrop for the Commission’s Policy Framework. It is divided into two main sections. The first provides an overview and summary of key legal principles from some significant legal decisions. This section aims to help readers understand the relevant legal background when seeking to conciliate or otherwise reconcile competing rights claims. The second part of the document surveys the leading cases that deal with competing rights. It also provides examples of situations where the leading cases, and the key principles from them, have been applied by courts and tribunals. It is divided by the types of rights conflicts that most commonly arise. The cases are discussed in some detail as the specific factual context of each case is so important to the rights reconciliation process.
The OHRC uses targeted legal action, including Public Interest Inquiries, to advance an expansive interpretation of the Code, establish important precedents that adopt OHRC policies, promote broader public change, and pursue public interest remedies. Some of our most recent case work can be found below. Each Annual Report also reviews the past year’s legal work.
The OHRC's Litigation and inquiry strategy sets out when and how the OHRC decides to conduct an inquiry or take an application to the Human Rights Tribunal or when to intervene in a legal proceeding.
To request a Commission initiated-application, inquiry or intervention, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
See our Litigation and Inquiry Strategy for more information about OHRC legal action.
On May 14, 2010, Ontario’s Divisional Court issued a decision on a case called Ontario Human Rights Commission v. Christian Horizons. The Divisional Court’s ruling was on the appeal of a 2008 decision made by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. In that decision, the Tribunal found that Christian Horizons infringed the rights of an employee who was in a same sex relationship.
Western scholars of religion would characterize Falun Gong as a new religious movement. The essence of Falun Gong is spiritual elevation. Falun Gong practitioners believe in the existence of gods and divine beings in the cosmos. Its leader, Li Hongzhi, has written a form of ‘scripture.‘ His message is profoundly moral.
(Extracts from CHRR)
Discriminatory auto insurance rates allowed for bona fide reasons
Zurich Insurance Co. v. Ontario (Human Rights Comm.)
The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada finds that Zurich Insurance did not discriminate against Michael Bates contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code by charging him higher premiums for automobile insurance because of his age, sex, and marital status.
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.
September 2014 - The Divisional Court has allowed an application for judicial review, heard on September 16, brought by the applicants and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), of a decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) denying special diet benefits to Joanne MacConnell.
In a decision released May 27, 2015, the Divisional Court has dismissed the applications for judicial review in de Lottinville and Kodama, matters in which the OHRC intervened.
The Bates v. Zurich Decision
List of Acronyms
Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA)
Canadian Loss Experience Rating System (CLEAR)
Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
Coalition for Fair and Just Treatment of Ontarians (CFJTO)
Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO)
HIV-AIDS Legal Clinic of Ontario (HALCO)
Independent Financial Brokers of Canada (IFBC)
(Formerly the Independent Life Insurance Brokers of Canada and the Independent Financial Services Brokers of Canada)
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC)
Multiple grounds in equality and human rights jurisprudence
Some courts and tribunals have started to acknowledge the need to make special provision for discrimination based on multiple grounds and to recognize the social, economic and historical context in which it takes place. However, despite these advancements, the courts’ understanding of a proper intersectional approach is still in its infancy. What follows is a discussion of recent cases in which a move towards a multiple grounds or intersectional analysis is evidenced in either a majority or dissenting opinion.
This section of the paper surveys the balancing tools found in the Code and relevant case law. Documents such as Commission briefing notes and Policy Papers provide invaluable commentary on these tools and their insights are woven into the following discussion. The goal of this section is to identify the resources for balancing conflicting rights that will be utilized in the scenarios discussed in Section IV.
The ground of family status was added to the Code in 1982. Until 1986, the Code contained an exception permitting residential buildings or parts of residential buildings to be designated as adult only. Unlike in the areas of employment and services, there has been significant litigation regarding family status issues in the area of housing, particularly in the Ontario context.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) has long been concerned about the significant barriers that persons with disabilities face when attempting to access transportation services.
A. v. Colloredo-Mansfeld (No. 3) (1994), 23 CHRR D/328 (Ont. Bd. Inq.)
Ahmed v. 177061 Canada Ltd. (2002), 43 CHRR D/379 (Ont. Bd. Inq.)
Alcoholism Foundation of Manitoba v. Winnipeg (City of), (Man. C.A.), (1990), 69 D.L.R. (4th) 697
Preventing discrimination is at the heart of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The courts and tribunals continue to clarify what this means. One example is a landmark ruling in September 2010.
In Tranchemontagne v. the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that two alcoholics were entitled to disability benefits. This case looked at what constituted discrimination in human rights law.
While the courts have not set a clear formula or analytical approach for dealing with competing rights, they have provided some guidance. Where rights appear to be in conflict, Charter principles require decision-makers to try to “reconcile” both sets of rights.
Adler v. Ontario,  3 S.C.R. 609
Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony, 2009 SCC 37
Assn. of Justices of the Peace of Ontario v. Ontario (Attorney General) (2008), 92 O.R. (3d) 16
B. (R.) v. Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto,  1 S.C.R. 315
Bothwell v. Ontario (Minister of Transportation), 2005 CanLII 1066 (ON S.C.D.C.)
Bou Malhab v. Diffusion Métromédia CMR Inc.,  1 S.C.R. 214
March 2012 - The OHRC will focus its comments on the issues and barriers identified in the CRSAO’s reports that connect to the OHRC’s current priority initiatives dealing with racism experienced by Aboriginal people and other groups as well as disability, especially mental health discrimination.
May 2012 - What follows is a discussion of significant legal decisions dealing with religious and creed rights in Canada. The focus is on decisions made since the Commission issued its 1996 Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of religious observances. It does not review every decision, but those that may be important from a human rights perspective. In addition to a description of the case law, trends and areas where it is anticipated the case law will continue to evolve or be clarified are identified. The review will form the basis for further research and dialogue concerning the law in Canada as it relates to this significant area of human rights.
October 2014 - This case law review looks at important developments in the law dealing with discrimination based on pregnancy and breastfeeding between 2008 and January 2014. The discussion of the law in Ontario is intended as a resource, to be read along with the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Preventing Discrimination because of Pregnancy and Breastfeeding (the Policy), about the rights of women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, who have had a baby or who are breastfeeding. However, it is not legal advice.