Human Rights Law in Canada

Human Rights Law in Canada

Canada is a country that provides its citizens with a wide range of rights and freedoms.  In 1977, the Parliament of Canada passed the Canadian Human Rights Act that intends to define rights and freedoms that apply equally to all its citizens regardless of their personal identities.  In other words, no matter your sex, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race, marital status, creed, age, ethnicity, ability, and political or religious belief, you should be afforded equal opportunity under the law.

If ever you have felt discrimination, it is the Canadian Human Rights Act that would outline which protections you are afforded.  That being said, this Act is under federal jurisdiction, and there are also provincial and territorial laws that apply to human rights in Canada.  While the Canadian Human Rights Act protects individuals for federally regulated activities, each of the provinces and territories would have their own set of anti-discrimination laws that protect individuals at that level.  For example, with respect to employment protections, the Canadian Human Rights Act protects those Canadians that are employed by the federal government, First Nations governments, and private companies that are federally regulated (i.e. banks, trucking companies, broadcasters, and telecommunications companies).

Additionally, the Canadian Human Rights Act not only protects against discrimination, but harassment as well.  Whereas discrimination may be defined as unjust or prejudicial treatment of an individual based on factors such as race, religion, sex, or gender, harassment constitutes a form of discrimination that includes any physical or verbal behaviour that you deem offensive or humiliating.  Harassment is typically considered behaviour that persists over a period of time, particularly if you have identified the behaviour as harassing and attempted to communicate to the perpetrator how their behaviour negatively affects you.

There are a wide range of behaviours that are considered harassment according to the Canadian Human Rights Act.  Unwelcome comments or jokes about aspects of your identity, threats or intimidation related to your identity, or unwelcome physical content such as touching or pinching are all examples of behaviour that may be defined as harassment.

Ultimately, the Canadian Human Rights Act sets out to provide all Canadians with a safe space in which they can be employed, conduct business, and engage in society without the risk of harassment or discrimination.  Should you feel that you have been treated unjustly because of aspects of your identity that include but are not limited to your sex, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race, marital status, creed, age, ethnicity, ability, and political or religious belief, you should speak with a lawyer about your rights as a Canadian.  None of us should feel oppressed or ostracized as citizens of this country.