Human Rights Law
Everyone in Canada has human rights. You don’t have to be a citizen and it does not matter where you are from. Laws in Canada and in British Columbia protect people from hateful speech, protect the right to political and religious beliefs and the right to be free from sexual harassment.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the basis of human rights laws in Canada. In addition, there is federal and provincial legislation that protects human rights. Each province in Canada has its own laws that also build on the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At the federal level, the Canadian Human Rights Act is administered and enforced by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. To find out if you are dealing with a federally regulated body, check the Canadian Human Rights Commission website.
At the provincial level, the British Columbia Human Rights Code is administered and enforced by the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The BC Human Rights Code is an important law that protects people from discrimination, including harassment.
In Canada, human rights legislation makes sure that people have the right to live free from discrimination and harassment. It is against the law to discriminate against people.
Discrimination and Harassment
Discrimination occurs when you treat people differently because of their personal characteristics and it affects them negatively. Personal characteristics are things like age, race, religion or gender. When someone does this, he or she is breaking laws that are created to protect your human rights.
To discriminate means to treat someone differently from other people in a way that is unfair. Harassment is when a person is subjected to unwelcome comments (often repeatedly) or behaviour that is insulting or demeaning.
In British Columbia, it is illegal to discriminate against or harass a person because of their:
- marital status
- family status
- place of origin
- physical or mental disability
- sex (includes pregnancy, breastfeeding, and sexual harassment)
- sexual orientation
- gender identity
- gender expression
- age (19 and over)
- criminal conviction (in employment only)
- political belief (in employment only)
- lawful source of income (in tenancy only)
You must also respect the rights of other people. This is true even if you don’t like or don’t approve of those rights. In the same way that the law protects you from discrimination, the law says you must respect people. Examples of discrimination include:
- Firing someone from a job because they are pregnant
- Refusing to rent an apartment to a man because he is gay
- Refusing to hire someone because they have a physical or mental disability
- Paying a woman less than a man who is doing the same job
- Forcing an employee to retire because of their age
The series of five videos below provides information about human rights in BC and Canada. Discrimination occurs when someone treats you differently based on your personal characteristics. In the videos, workshop participants get answers to their questions about discrimination and learn more about their human rights.
Part 1: Human Rights in Canada
Part 2: Discrimination in the Workplace
Part 3: Discrimination and Renting
Part 4: Pregnant? You Have Rights
Part 5: Making a Human Rights Complaint
Being Discriminated Against?
If you believe that you are being discriminated against, you have the right to file a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Complaint forms are available online: BC Human Right Tribunal Forms. The BC Human Rights Tribunal is a government agency that hears human rights complaints. It is like a court.
What is involved in filing a complaint?
To make a human rights complaint that is covered by the Human Rights Code, visit the website of the BC Human Rights Tribunal for information. Watch the video below: Making a Human Rights Complaint. When you fill out a BC Human Rights Tribunal Complaint Form, you will be asked the following information:
- Who are you?
- Who are you complaining about?
- What happened?
- Why do you think what happened was because of your personal characteristics?
REMEMBER: Keep copies of important evidence.
Both you and the party who has discriminated against you will then be asked to come to a settlement meeting. It is strongly recommended that you remain open to a solution before your case goes to a formal Tribunal Hearing.
What is a Tribunal Hearing?
A tribunal hearing is like a court trial. There is no judge. Instead, a tribunal member (who is like a judge) will hear your case. After all evidence is given from both sides, the tribunal member will decide if there was discrimination or not. If it is determined that there has been discrimination, a positive solution will be offered by the tribunal. If it is determined that there was no discrimination, the case will be dismissed. Although it is different in each case, a positive solution may take the form of financial compensation.