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Religious rights (fact sheet)

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Religion and Human Rights

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, discrimination because of religion (creed) is against the law. Everyone should have access to the same opportunities and benefits, and be treated with equal dignity and respect, regardless of their religion.

Religion includes the practices, beliefs and observances that are part of a faith or religion. It does not include personal moral, ethical or political views. Nor does it include religions that promote violence or hate towards others, or that violate criminal law.

Protection against discrimination applies in the following areas:

  • Employment, including job applications, interviews, employment benefits, working conditions, and promotions;
  • Housing, including rental housing, hotels, commercial properties, and buying or selling a house;
  • Services, goods and facilities, including education, hospitals and health services, stores and restaurants, government programs, and public places and facilities;
  • Contracts, such as for buying or selling goods or services;
  • Unions, professional associations, and other vocational associations.

It doesn't matter whether or not discrimination is intentional: it is the effect of the behaviour that is important.

Where a rule conflicts with religious requirements, there is a duty to ensure that individuals are able to observe their religion, unless this would cause undue hardship because of cost, or health and safety reasons. Unlawful discrimination because of religion can include:

  • Refusing to make an exception to dress codes to recognize religious dress requirements;
  • Refusing to allow individuals to observe periods of prayer at particular times during the day;
  • Refusing to permit individuals to take time off to observe a religious holiday.

For more information, please refer to the complete policy for this area, Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances.

This document has been developed for information purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal advice.