Civil Litigation
Human Rights / Discrimination

Human Rights / Discrimination

In Ontario, the Human Rights Code (Code) expressly prohibits discrimination and harassment because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability. Please note that unlike the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that only applies to the government and its affiliates, the Human Rights Code applies to both government and private entities.


Who are caught by the Code?

Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities. You have the right to be free from discrimination and harassment when you receive goods or services, or use facilities. This right applies to:

  1. Stores, restaurants and bars;

  2. Hospitals and health services;

  3. Schools, universities and colleges;

  4. Public places, amenities and utilities such as recreation centres, public washrooms, malls and parks;

  5. Services and programs provided by municipal and provincial governments, including social assistance and benefits, and public transit;

  6. Services provided by insurance companies; and

  7. Classified advertisement space in a newspaper.

Every person has a right to equal treatment when buying, selling, renting or being evicted from an apartment, house, condominium or commercial property. This right also covers renting or being evicted from a hotel room.  Your right to housing without discrimination also includes suitable access to doors, laundry rooms, swimming pools, other common areas, repairs and other aspects of housing. Every person has a right to freedom from harassment by the landlord or agent of the landlord or by an occupant of the same building as well.

Every person having legal capacity has a right to contract on equal terms without discrimination.  A contract is a legal agreement. It can be a written or verbal agreement. The right to enter into a contract on equal terms covers all steps in the contract, including the offer, acceptance, price or even rejection of a contract. All types of contracts are covered by the Code, including contracts for the purchase of a house, condominium or other type of residential accommodation, and contracts for buying a business, such as office or retail space.

Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination and without harassment. In Ontario, about three-quarters of all human rights claims come from the workplace. Click Here to go to the Employment Law Section for more detail.



Who are NOT caught by the Code?

The Code includes specific defences and exceptions that allow behaviour that would otherwise be discriminatory. Some of these recognize the associational rights of creed-based groups to give preference in certain circumstances to persons who share the same creed beliefs and practices:

Special programs
The Code protects “special programs” that are designed to address the historical disadvantage experienced by people identified by a Code ground. As a result, it is not discriminatory to implement programs designed to help people identified by creed, as long as an organization can show that the program is:


  1. Designed to relieve hardship or economic disadvantage

  2. Designed to help the disadvantaged group achieve or try to achieve equal opportunity, or

  3. Likely to help eliminate discrimination.

Special interest organizations
Under the Code, religious organizations and other organizations such as charities, schools, social clubs, sororities or fraternities that want to limit membership and involvement to people with a particular religion or creed can do this as long as they primarily serve the interests of people from this group.

The Code establishes three requirements that will allow an organization to provide a service or facility that would otherwise be regarded as discriminatory under the Code:


  1. Is the entity a religious, philanthropic, educational, fraternal or social institution or organization?

  2. Is the institution or organization primarily engaged in serving the interests of persons identified by their creed?

  3. Is membership or participation in the institution or organization restricted to people identified by that creed?

The Code does not require that an organization or institution provide its services solely to members of a group identified by creed to qualify for the exemption, as long as providing such services is the “primary” purpose.

Special employment
A religious, philanthropic, educational, fraternal or social institution or organization that mostly serves the interests of people identified by certain Code grounds including creed can give hiring preference to people from that group or impose a creed-based qualification, as long as the qualification is reasonable and legitimate (bona fide), given the nature of the job.


If you feel like you are a victim of a discrimination or a harassment that is caught by the Code, you should seek legal advice promptly. HTW Law can help. Call us now at 647-849-6582 or send us a message if you have some legal questions / inquiries or want to schedule an appointment with HTW Law.


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