Unit A “About Human Rights” has two sections. “Foundations of the Code” and “What is Discrimination.”
Where the Code Comes From
“Foundations of the Code” discusses the international, national, and provincial foundations of the Ontario Human Rights Code. Under international law, we all have human rights, and so the Code’s Preamble refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Code also looks to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees people the people of Canada certain political and civil rights.
After World War II, Ontario politicians and citizens lobbied for legislation to protect human rights, and it was one of the first provinces to introduce: The Racial Discrimination Act (1944), The Fair Employment Practices Act (1951), and The Fair Accommodation Practices Act (1954). In 1962, these Acts were brought together under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
What is discrimination? Discrimination is treating somebody badly because of their race, disability, sex or other personal characteristics. Discrimination has many forms. Discrimination can target one person, or a group. It can be hard to see or be part of a system.
Direct discrimination means discriminating against someone because you think they are different from you. It includes practices or behaviours that have a negative effect of a person or a group of people who belong to a ground listed under the Code. It doesn't matter that you didn't intend to treat them differently. What matters is whether your actions or what you said results in discrimination.
Constructive discrimination may happen when certain demands or requirements that seem to be fair actually keep groups listed in the Code out, or gives them special treatment over others.
Discrimination may be part of a system, like how decisions are made, and the practices and policies, or the culture of the organization. For example, the head of the company likes golf, and only wants to promote managers who play golf. Think about who gets invited to the golf game.
Reprisal means taking action, or threatening to take action against someone who has a human rights complaint, or who is a witness to the discrimination, and is not allowed under the code. You cannot be punished or threatened with punishment for trying to make a complaint, filing a human rights application, filing a human rights grievance, or acting as a witness at a human rights hearing.
A poisoned environment is created when comments or actions based on grounds listed in the code make you feel unwelcomed or uncomfortable at work. It poisons the workplace. Sometimes all it takes is one comment to poison the environment.
Harassment under the code means "a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonable to be known to be unwelcome." Harassment usually meets the following requirements: What was said or the behaviour usually happened more than once. The person responsible for the comment or conduct should have known that it is not welcome. Sometimes it’s hard to tell someone to stop, so if you don’t or can’t, the code doesn’t require you to do so.
Racial profiling happens when you take action because you're worried about safety, for security reasons, or for the public's protection, and your decision is based on stereotypes about a person's race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion or place of origin.
Discrimination happens it many ways. It can be direct, indirect (sometimes called constructive), or systemic. Discrimination can also be things like reprisal, a poisoned environment, harassment, or racial profiling.