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5. Possible impact and repercussions of expanding definition of creed

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Extending Code protection to non-religious beliefs and practices could affect employers and other organizations in Ontario in many ways.[374]

This could, for instance, increase administrative challenges for employers and organizations in determining whether, and to what extent and in what respects, less well known ”beliefs” may merit legal protection. Challenges would extend beyond merely determining what is a creed, to also distinguishing and assessing core and peripheral aspects of little known beliefs and practices to determine appropriate potential accommodations. Organizations, and the courts in some instances, are already struggling to deal with claims of interference with religious and creed rights (including determining what counts as “creed” and ”religion” and what practices merit accommodation) under existing terms and interpretations of the Code and Charter, post Amselem.[375] Such struggles will likely expand if the definition of creed expands.

An expanded definition of creed could also increase the number and volume of creed claims brought forward, in organizations and at the Tribunal (in part merely as a consequence of the publicity that a change in interpretations of creed under the Code could generate). This could also expand the scope of organizations’ duty to accommodate creeds short of undue hardship, affecting organizational costs and effective organizational functioning (albeit short of undue hardship).[376] For example, a large organization may be asked to refurnish an office, change a uniform, food offerings, etc. to accommodate an ethical vegan’s deeply held aversion to the use of animal products, including leather.

Finally, the implications of applying statutory defences under Section 18 (special interest organizations) and Section 24 (special employment) would need to be carefully considered.

[374]  Such potential impacts are discussed in Chiodo’s (2012b) paper, “Conscience, Creed and the Code: Forthcoming Changes to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Creed.”

[375] See Chiodo, 2012b.

[376] Chiodo (2012b) is not overly concerned about this possibility, since she thinks most cases will continue to fail at the first prima facie stage of discrimination analysis, as is currently the case.

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