Human rights and newcomers

Human rights and newcomers

These short videos were originally created in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. They can help all newcomers, support agencies and the public learn about their rights and responsibilities under Ontario’s Human Rights Code. The videos are also available with Arabic subtitles.

To Video 1, Racial Harassment
Video [3:31]
Racial harassment
To Video 2, Housing is a Human Right
Video [4:12]
Housing is a human right
To Video 3, Discrimination based on creed
Video [6:00]

Discrimination based on creed

To Video 4, Removing the 'Canadian experience' barrier
Video [6:40]
Removing the “Canadian experience” barrier

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Cover photo. Links to eLearning on Human Rights and Newcomers
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Human rights and newcomers

Racial harassment

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code,
“harassment” has a specific meaning.

Harassment is behaviour that is known
or ought to be known to be unwelcome

Racial harassment is when the
unwelcome behaviour is related to

race-based grounds under the Code.

Racial harassment means that someone is
bothering you, threatening you or

treating you unfairly because of your
perceived race, colour, ancestry,

place of origin, ethnic origin,
creed, or citizenship.

It may also be based on a combination
of any of these characteristics.

Racial harassment may also be because of
things that are characteristics,

such as your clothing where it related
to your background, or if you

speak with an accent or practice
a certain religion.

It is against the law for anyone to
harass you, insult you, or

treat you unfairly for
any of these reasons.

The Ontario Human Rights Code
protects you from racial harassment

and discrimination where you work,
live, or get a service.  

Services include places such as hospitals,
restaurants, stores and malls, hotels,

recreation facilities and schools.

Racial harassment can happen when someone
where you work, live or get a service

makes racial slurs or “jokes”,
makes fun of you or insults you

because of your racial identity,
posts cartoons or pictures, in a workplace,

school or housing space, that degrade
persons of a particular racial group,

calls you names because of your race,
colour, citizenship, place of origin,

ancestry, ethnic background or creed.

If you think you have been
harassed, try to tell that person to stop.

If you feel that saying or doing something  
puts you, your job or your housing at risk,

go to someone  in authority.

If it happens at work, speak to
human resources, tell a manager or

contact your union representative.

If it happens in the building where you live,
notify the landlord.

If none of these options
improve your situation,

or you are afraid of taking these steps,
you can also file

a formal human rights complaint.

To start the process contact the
Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

Or you can contact the
National Council of Canadian Muslims

also known as NCCM.   

Both have services in Arabic.  

And visit the OHRC's website at

Housing is a human right

Housing is a human right.

International law states that
people in Canada should be able to get

good housing that they can afford.

In Ontario, the Human Rights Code
applies to both tenants and landlords.

Everyone has the right to
equal treatment in housing without

discrimination or harassment.

Landlords are responsible for making
sure housing environments are free from

discrimination and harassment.

People cannot be refused an apartment,
bothered by a landlorrd or other tenants,

or otherwise treated unfairly because of their:
race, colour, ancestry or ethnic background

religious beliefs or practices
marital status, including those with a same-sex partner

place of origin
citizenship, including refugee status

family status, age, including individuals
who are 16 or 17 years old and no longer

living with their parents, disability
sex (including pregnancy)

gender identity or gender expression
sexual orientation, or because

they are in receipt of public assistance.

The right to equal treatment without
discrimination applies when renting a unit

or buying a home.

This right also applies to choosing or
evicting tenants, occupancy rules and

regulations, repairs, the use of related
services and facilities and the general

enjoyment of the premises.

The Ontario Human Rights Code says what
can and cannot be asked when choosing tenants.

Rental history, credit references and/or
credit checks may be requested.  However,

a lack of rental or credit history
should not be viewed negatively.

Requesting employment history of newcomers
can result in systemic discrimination.

Landlords can ask for income information,
but they must also ask for and consider it

together with any available information
on rental history, credit references

and credit checks.

Income information can only be
considered on its own when no other

information is made available.

Income information should be limited
to confirming that the person has

enough income to cover the rent.

Landlords can also ask for a “guarantor”
to sign the lease – but only if

the landlord has the same requirements for
all tenants, not just for recent immigrants.

Unless the unit is subsidized housing,
it is illegal for landlords to apply

a rent-to-income ratio. An example is
a 30% cut-off rule where the rent

is 30% of the tenant’s income.

Landlords have a legal duty to
accommodate legitimate needs

based on Code grounds, such as disability,
family status or creed.

And landlords must accommodate
to the point of undue hardship.

The tenant and the landlord share
the responsibility of making the

accommodation work, by working together
to solve problems and by

providing necessary information.

The Code does not apply to
personality conflicts between the

tenant and the landlord, or
between tenants, that are

not linked to the Code.

If you find your housing rights
are being violated you can contact

the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA).

You may also contact the
Human Rights Legal Support Centre,

which has services in Arabic.   


Discrimination based on creed

[Jamila]: Hello. I’'m Jamila.
[Alan]: And I’'m Alan.
[Alan]: So you want to learn about how the Ontario Human Rights Code protects against discrimination based on creed.
[Alan]: The Human Rights Code recognizes the dignity and worth of every person in Ontario.
[Jamila]: For the ground of creed, this means that the Code protects the right to freely hold and to practice creed beliefs in specific areas of our lives, like in housing in services like education and health care in employment and also in contracts and membership in unions, trade or professional associations.
[Jamila]: Under the Code, a creed group may restrict its membership to people who share the same creed belief.
[Jamila]: No right under the Code is absolute. Rights can be limited if they interferes with other people’s rights.
[Alan]: That sounds a little confusing.
[Jamila]: Let me offer an example. The Code does not protect creed practices when members incite hatred or violence against other people or break criminal laws.
[Alan]: So what does the ground of creed include?
[Jamila]: Creed includes religions as well as non-religious beliefs that have a major influence on a person’s identity, their worldview or their way of life. And protections under the ground of creed also apply to people who have no creed belief or practice.
[Jamila]: So a person may be treated differently because of their creed or they could face discrimination even if they don’t follow a creed.
[Alan]: For there to be a Code violation, creed discrimination only has to be 1 factor in the decision to not hire someone, or to refuse to provide services or to rent an apartment.
[Alan]: At the same time, if you are harassed because you don’t follow a particular creed, that could be discrimination too.
[Alan]: And discrimination may occur with a policy or a practice. For example, a “clean-shaven” policy at work can discriminate even if it wasn’t created for that purpose, when it affects people who have religious requirements around facial hair.
[Jamila]: Here are some types of creed-based discrimination: Harassment because you follow – or do not follow – a creed Treating someone differently and unequally because on their creed Creed profiling, which is similar to racial profiling
[Alan]: Sometimes stereotypes and bias towards different faiths shape how we view events.
[Alan]: Just look at the media and how the coverage of international and local events has influenced attitudes like Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
[Jamila]: and when religion, race and ethnicity are linked together, religious minorities in Ontario may be exposed to forms of racism, discrimination and harassment based on the intersection of their creed with other Code grounds such as ethnic origin, place of origin and ancestry.
[Alan]: Let’s talk a bit more about xenophobia and Islamophobia.
[Alan]: Xenophobia involves attitudes and behaviours like mistrusting or excluding people who are viewed as ‘outsiders’ or ‘foreigners’.
[Alan]: Islamophobia is more specific. It can include racism, stereotypes, prejudice and fear or acts of hostility directed at people who are Muslim or who are followers of Islam.
[Alan]: Islamophobia is when Muslim people, or Islam in general, are depicted in one-sided sweeping negative portrayals like when they are stereotyped or racially profiled as a threat to Canadian security or Canadian values.
[Alan]: All too often, these images are accepted as “normal”. And when this happens Islamophobia occurs over and over again.
[Jamila]: And the effect? Muslims may be treated unequally, evaluated negatively, and be excluded from positions, rights and opportunities in society and its institutions.
[Jamila]: That animosity can carry over to other racialized communities who are targeted because of their appearance.
[Jamila]: We’ve seen what can happen when people who aren’t Muslim are “‘perceived” to be associated with Islam. One of the first crimes after 9/11 was the fire-bombing of a Hindu temple in Hamilton that was mistaken for a mosque.
[Jamila]: Generally, the more “visible” and “different” a person or a community is, or their faith practices are perceived to be, the more likely they are to face undue scrutiny and disapproval.
[Alan]: Islamophobia, like anti-Semitism, often blames all members of the religion holding everyone collectively guilty for objectionable or heinous acts that are carried out by individuals.
[Alan]: Discrimination based on creed is a real problem in today’s society, and the best way to eliminate it is to understand and recognize it.
[Alan]: For more information :
[Alan]: Contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre or the National Council of Canadian Muslims also known as NCCM.
[Alan]: Both provide services in Arabic.
[Jamila]: Or, visit the OHRC’s website at

Removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier

Removing the “Canadian experience” barrier - eLearning

Some employers ask people applying for jobs if they have “Canadian experience.”

That can make it much harder for people new to Canada to find work.

And, some regulatory bodies like professional associations or ones for accountants or doctors also ask for Canadian experience.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission believes that asking for Canadian experience can result in discrimination.

Employers and regulatory bodies should always have to show why Canadian experience is needed. “Canadian experience” is not a good way to tell if you have the rights skills or experience to do a job.

Employers should ask about all of your previous work – where you got your experience should not matter. Let me tell you about the Human Rights Code.

The Code is an Ontario law that gives you equal rights and opportunities for jobs.

You have similar rights in other areas too, like housing and services. Some rules or practices may result in unequal treatment.

A job ad or hiring process that blocks people who don’t have Canadian experience can hurt newcomers to Canada, even though they may have experience in another country and can do the job.

And, not hiring someone because of where they worked before may be discrimination based on race, ancestry, colour, place of origin or ethnic origin.

So, what questions should NOT be asked? Asking about Canadian experience could be a way to find out about your race, ancestry, colour, place of origin or ethnic origin. The Human Rights Code says employers must not put out a job ad, use an application form, or ask a job applicant questions to find out about what are called “prohibited grounds of discrimination” in the Code. During a job interview, employers should not ask you where you got your experience.

They should consider all of your work experience, in any country.

Employers should only ask specifically about “Canadian” experience if they can show it is really needed to do the job (that it is a “legitimate requirement”) and that providing “accommodation” would cause “undue hardship.”

I’ll talk more about accommodation and undue hardship later on. An employer must not use an employment agency to hire people because they prefer employees of a particular race or colour.

They must not use an employment agency to recruit, select, screen or hire people based on whether they have Canadian work experience. There are easy ways to assess a person’s skills and abilities, even if they have not worked in Canada.

For example, an employer is looking for a typist/receptionist.

Even if the person was trained in another country, there are several ways to tell if they can really do the job, such as a test (a typing test, for example), letters of reference or having the person actually do the job for a short time (a “probationary period”).

Let's look at what we call “legitimate” job requirements.

Job requirements should be reasonable and directly related to how the job is done.

The Supreme Court of Canada says an employer must show that the requirement:

  • relates to the purpose or nature of the job
  • was adopted honestly rather than for a discriminatory reason is necessary to do the job
  • there isn’t a better way that would avoid or reduce the negative effect

and, the situations of individual job applicants must still be considered and accommodated as much as possible to the point of undue hardship, unless the cost to do that would be very high or would create health and safety risks.

An employer won’t be able to say that a requirement for Canadian experience is justified unless they can show that that they have taken a flexible approach, looked at other types of experience, and weighed this against the other requirements of the job. The hiring process should be clear and open. Job ads should talk about the exact skills and work experience needed for the job. Applicants should be given the chance to show their skills during interviews and even in a simulated job setting. Here’s an example: Rather than imposing a general Canadian experience requirement on job applicants, or insisting that they have established local business contacts before they are hired, an advertising agency provides job applicants with the opportunity to show their ability to generate business.

Employers and regulatory bodies should make sure that they are not discriminating against people and that their policies, programs and practices respect human rights. This includes not having job or accreditation requirements that create barriers for newcomers. Where barriers exist, an employer has a duty to remove them. Here’s an example: A major bank wants to make sure that people without Canadian experience don’t face a barrier when they apply for a job. To do this, the bank decides to not include a question about “country of origin” on its job application form.

For more information please go to www.

Removing the “Canadian experience” barrier - eLearning
Transcript at


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