Systemic Discrimination

… a core concept in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

Concept description

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission (reference below) defines systemic discrimination as “practices or attitudes that have, whether by design or impact, the effect of limiting an individual’s or a group’s right to the opportunities generally available because of attributed rather than actual characteristics” and states that systemic discrimination occurs when “a mix of rules or practices that may not seem discriminatory when looked at individually, together resulting in discrimination.”

The Commission goes on to say:

“The law is clear that intention to discriminate is not required to prove that discrimination occurred. Therefore systemic discrimination often refers to an indirect or unintended negative effect or impact of certain standards, policies, or behaviour.

“For this reason, discriminatory fitness or vision (or other) standards for a job or service must be shown to be reasonably necessary to accomplish the standard’s broader purpose or goal, which is often safety. An individual assessment should be available to evaluate whether a person meets the standard, unless it would be undue hardship to provide this.

“Complaints of systemic discrimination are often filed on behalf of a group(s) of people; however an individual may also file a complaint of systemic discrimination. Systemic discrimination is usually the broader impact of a rule or policy which discriminates against an individual based on a characteristic in The Code.

“Systemic and individual discrimination are assessed the same way: has the individual or group suffered arbitrary or unjustified negative effects or barriers based on a characteristic in section 9(2) of The Code, such as disability, age, or sex. … Systemic discrimination may include requiring job candidates to have Canadian work experience, not providing a wheelchair accessible washroom in a public place, setting unreasonably strict vision or hearing standards for employment, not allowing head covers worn for religious reasons, imposing a more difficult licensing process on professionals from certain countries, height and/or size requirements for a job that exclude most women and members of certain ancestral groups, English-only rules in a workplace, and female-dominated occupations requiring comparable skill and education being paid less than their male-dominated counterparts. These are hypothetical examples.  Actual complaints will be assessed based on their unique facts.”


The Manitoba Human Rights Commission (2014), Systemic Discrimination, at, accessed 5 February 2017.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Diversity, Identity, and Rights (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 5 February 2017.

Image: kai-isdead, Say No to Prejudice, at, accessed 5 February 2017.