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Policy on discrimination and language

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Approved by the Commission: June 19, 1996
(Please note: minor revisions were made in December 2009 to address legislative amendments resulting from the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006, which came into effect on June 30, 2008.)

Available in other accessible formats on request


The Code states that it is public policy in Ontario to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every person and to provide for equal rights and opportunities without discrimination. The provisions of the Code are aimed at creating a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person so that each person feels a part of the community and feels able to contribute to the community.

This policy statement sets out the OHRC’s position on language-based discrimination in the areas of employment, accommodation, services, contracts, and membership in trade unions, trades, occupational associations or self-governing professions. The Code, like most other provincial human rights legislation in Canada, does not include "language" as a prohibited ground of discrimination.[1] For the Tribunal to have jurisdiction, the discriminatory action or behaviour must be in relation to a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Code.

Although the Code does not explicitly identify "language" as a prohibited ground of discrimination, the Human Rights tribunal of Ontario may consider claims under a number of related grounds, such as ancestry, ethnic origin, place of origin and in some circumstances, race.[2] In the Commission's experience, language can be an element of a complaint based on any of these grounds.[3]

[1] At the time of the initial publication of this Policy, Quebec and the Yukon Territory are the only Canadian jurisdictions which specifically state that language is a prohibited ground of discrimination in the area of employment.
[2] Sign language is not included in this policy as it is directly related to the ground of "disability" which is protected under the Code. Issues relating to persons who sign are addressed in the Commission's Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate, available
[3]The Code is to be given a fair, large and liberal interpretation. See Cousens v. Canadian Nurses Association (1981), 2 C.H.R.R. D/365 (Ont. Bd. of Inq.).


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