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Special programs and other exceptions in the Code

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In addition to section 14, some other sections in the Code allow preference to be given to specific groups if certain criteria are met. The special interest organization (section 18), special employment (section 24) and the age 65-and-over provisions (section 15) all lay out special exceptions or defences to the right to be free from discrimination under Part I of the Code. However, these differ from section 14 in the following ways.

Section 14 generally applies where a “program” is the issue and a need can be shown. Section 18 deals with preferential membership or participation in a special interest organization. Section 24 applies only to preferential hiring practices in employment,

where identifying with a Code ground is a genuine qualification for the job. The age 65-and-over (section 15) provision of the Code allows preference to be given to people in that age group.

Sometimes, different parts of the Code may apply to the same organization, but in different ways:

Example 1: A social recreation centre that offers workout facilities, a pool, daycare service, reading library and a café restricts its membership and services to women and transgender women (someone who has changed their gender identity from male to female). This would likely be protected under section 18 of the Code as a “special interest organization” or possibly under section 20(3) as a “recreational club.”

Example 2: The women’s centre gives preferential treatment to its members aged 65 and over by providing them with discounted membership rates. It can do this under section 15 of the Code.

Example 3: The women’s centre also provides life-skills and counselling programs exclusively to its members who are refugees to Canada and have experienced trauma and abuse. Using research to show that this group is much more disadvantaged than others, it justifies this service restriction as a “special program” under section 14 of the Code.

Example 4: The women’s centre restricts hiring qualified counsellors for its life-skills and counselling programs to women. It can do this under the “special employment” (section 24) provisions of the Code.

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