… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

Concept description

Oxford Dictionary defines discrimination as “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.”

The Canadian Human Rights Commission states:

Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or a group negatively for reasons such as their race, age or disability. These reasons are known as grounds of discrimination. Federal employers and service providers, as well as employers and service providers of private companies that are regulated by the federal government, cannot discriminate against individuals for these reasons.

These 11 grounds are protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act:

  • race
  • national or ethnic origin
  • colour
  • religion
  • age
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • marital status
  • family status
  • disability
  • a conviction for which a pardon has been granted or a record suspended.

[Note: Bill C-16 would add a 12th ground “gender identity or expression” at this point. See http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8280564.]

There are several ways that a person could be discriminated against. The Canadian Human Rights Act calls these discriminatory practices. The following seven discriminatory practices are prohibited by the Canadian Human Rights Act when they are based on one or more of the 11 grounds of discrimination:

  • Denying someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation.
  • Providing someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation in a way that treats them adversely and differently.
  • Refusing to employ or continue to employ someone, or treating them unfairly in the workplace.
  • Following policies or practices that deprive people of employment opportunities.
  • Paying men and women differently when they are doing work of the same value.
  • Retaliating against a person who has filed a complaint with the Commission or against someone who has filed a complaint for them.
  • Harassing someone.

The Ontario Human Rights Code includes a similar list of grounds as the Canadian Human Rights Act, with the notable difference of including gender identity and gender expression. The grounds for discrimination in Ontario are: race; colour; ancestry; place of origin; citizenship; ethnic origin; creed (religion); receipt of social assistance (housing only); disability; age; marital status; family status; sex or gender (includes being pregnant, sexual harassment); sexual orientation; gender identity; gender expression; and record of offenses (employment only, must have been pardoned).

Atlas topic, subject, and course

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


Oxford Dictionary, discrimination, at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/discrimination, accessed 26 December 2016.

Canadian Human Rights Commission (2016), Laws that protect human rights, at http://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/how-are-human-rights-protected-canada, accessed 15 November 2016.

Ontario Human Rights Commission, What is discrimination? at http://www.hrlsc.on.ca/en/what-is-discrimination, accessed 5 February 2017.

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

Image: United Employees Law Group at http://www.california-labor-law-attorney.com/californias-discrimination-laws/, accessed 26 December 2016.