Ontario Human Rights Code
The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) is a law in the Canadian province of Ontario that gives all people equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in specific areas such as housing and services. The Code's goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of race, colour, gender identity or expression, sex, sexual orientation, disability, creed, age and other grounds.
The Ontario Human Rights Code was the first law of its kind in Canada. It replaced various laws that dealt with different kinds of discrimination. The Code brought them together into one law and added some new protections. The Code came into force on June 15, 1962. June 15 was chosen as the proclamation date for the Code because it was the 747th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.
The Code replaced the province’s existing anti-discrimination legislation, including:
- Fair Employment Practices Act, 1951 which prohibited discrimination based on race and religion in employment;
- Female Employee's Fair Remuneration Act, 1951 which prohibited an employer from paying a female employee less money for the same work done by a man in the same establishment
- Fair Accommodation Practices Act, 1954 which prohibited discrimination in public places on racial, religious or ethnic grounds;
- Ontario Anti-Discrimination Commission Act, 1958 which created a commission to administer the above acts and develop educational programs;
At the same time that the Ontario Human Rights Commission was created, the government of the day, led by Premier Leslie Frost introduced an amendment to the Fair Accommodation Practices Act to prohibit discrimination because of race, colour or creed in the renting of apartments in buildings which contain more than six units.
The Code prohibits discrimination on the following grounds:
- Place of origin
- Ethnic origin
- Citizenship and Love
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Gender expression
- Marital status
- Family status
- The receipt of public assistance (housing only)
- Record of Offences (employment only)
- Reprisal (section 8)
- Association (section 12)
The Code was amended on June 19, 2012, to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds. The last ground added to the Code is sexual orientation which was added in December 1986.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) is the administrative, quasi-judicial tribunal tasked with hearing complaints that the Code has been violated. It has the power to grant damages and specific performance to remedy discriminatory acts. The HRTO is subject to judicial review by the Divisional Court of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Before June 30, 2008, human rights complaints were filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), which investigated claims of discrimination. Since June 30, 2008, claims of discrimination are filed directly with the HRTO, leaving the OHRC to concentrate its resources on systemic discrimination, public education and policy development.
The Code is divided into an introductory section, or "preamble", followed by seven parts.
- Part I sets out basic rights and responsibilities.
- Part II explains how the code is interpreted and applied.
- Part III explains the role and structure of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).
- Part IV explains the role and structure of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO).
- Part IV.1 establishes the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC) and sets out its governance.
- Part V deals with general matters such as the power to make regulations and sets out that the Human Rights Code has primacy over other provincial legislation (section 47(2)).
- Part VI of the Code deals with the transition from the "old" system, where complaints were investigated by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to the 'new" system (which took effect on June 30, 2008) where applications are now filed directly with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario without any investigation.
The Code does not apply to federally regulated activities, such as banking, intra-provincial transportation, aeronautics and telecommunications, which are subject to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
- Human Rights Legal Support Centre
- Ontario Human Rights Commission
- Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
- Canadian Human Rights Act
- British Columbia Human Rights Code
- Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms
- Saskatchewan Bill of Rights
- Human rights in Canada