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What is the Ontario Human Rights Code?

Under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), organizations must comply with the standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In addition, they must also follow requirements under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code). In other words, the AODA and the Code work together to promote accessibility and reduce discrimination in Ontario.

What is the Ontario Human Rights Code?

The Ontario Human Rights Code protects people from discrimination in five sectors of society. One of these sectors is employment. For instance, the Code protects people from discrimination in:

  • Full-time work
  • Part-time work
  • Short-term or contract work
  • Work probation
  • Volunteer work
  • Student internships
  • Special employment programs

Similarly, the Code protects people’s right to freedom from discrimination when renting housing, including:

  • Private rental housing
  • Cooperative housing
  • Social housing
  • Supportive or assisted housing

Likewise, the Code requires freedom from discrimination when people access goods, services, and facilities in the public or private sector, including:

  • Insurance
  • Schools
  • Restaurants
  • Transportation
  • Police
  • Healthcare
  • Social services
  • Shopping

Furthermore, people have the right not to experience discrimination during membership in unions, professional associations, or trade unions, including:

  • Joining
  • Terms and conditions of membership

Finally, people have the right to contract with others free from discrimination, including:

  • Offers of entering into contracts
  • Accepting contracts
  • Prices
  • Rejecting contracts

In short, the Code protects people from discrimination in employment, housing, business dealings, and other services. Therefore, under the Code, organizations must prevent discrimination in all these areas. Moreover, they must also respond to discrimination when it happens.

Grounds of Discrimination

Under the Code, people and organizations cannot discriminate on the basis of:

  • Age
  • Ancestry, colour, or race
  • Citizenship
  • Ethnic origin
  • Place of origin
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Marital status
  • Gender identity, or gender expression
  • Receiving government assistance (for housing)
  • Record of offences (in employment)
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Consequently, when people experience discrimination at work, in housing, or in the other areas that the code covers, they can claim discrimination before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). Moreover, according to the HRTO, most human rights claims are made on the grounds of disability.

In addition, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is an organization that promotes, protects, and advances human rights throughout the province. For instance, the OHRC writes policies to help people understand what types of discrimination are, and how to prevent and respond to them. Furthermore, these policies include guidelines, best practices, and examples to show organizations how to create spaces and services that respect the rights of all people.

In our next series of articles, we will explore how the Ontario Human Rights Code protects people from discrimination on the basis of disability. We will outline how the Code’s mandates support people with disabilities and their loved ones to live, work, and be part of their communities.