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Protections for non-citizens and Immigrants in the Ontario Human Rights Code Shaheen Azmi, Acting Director, Policy, Education, Monitoring, and Outreach,

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Presentation on theme: "Protections for non-citizens and Immigrants in the Ontario Human Rights Code Shaheen Azmi, Acting Director, Policy, Education, Monitoring, and Outreach,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Protections for non-citizens and Immigrants in the Ontario Human Rights Code Shaheen Azmi, Acting Director, Policy, Education, Monitoring, and Outreach, Ontario Human Rights Commission Who Belongs? Rights, Benefits, Obligations and Immigration Status Canadian Civil Liberties Association University of Toronto, Faculty of Law Flavelle House (78 Queen’s Park Crescent West) September 24, 2010

2 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 2 History Code emerged in context of discrimination faced largely by newer immigrants in accessing services, employment and housing and contracting  1944 – The Racial Discrimination Act prohibits the publication or display, on lands, premises, by newspaper or radio, of any notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation indicating racial or religious discrimination  1951 – The Fair Employment Practices Act added colour, nationality, ancestry and place of origin to the grounds of discrimination.  1955 the Fair Accommodation Practices Act added the social area of accommodation  1962 Ontario Human Rights Code with subsequent amendments adding new grounds such as citizenship, family status, receipt of public assistance(1981)

3 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 3 Broadly speaking Provincial statute – does not deal directly with immigration status or regulation Code’s objective is to protect the dignity and equality rights of all persons and to eliminate discrimination. Non citizens and immigrants from any country are afforded the same rights as any Ontarian with the exception of exemptions identified for “citizenship”

4 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 4 Freedom from Discrimination The Code lists 5 social areas … … and lists grounds of discrimination …

5 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 5  Services  Accommodation  Contracts  Employment  Vocational Associations social areas

6 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 6  race  ancestry  place of origin  colour  ethnic origin  citizenship  creed  sex / pregnancy  sexual orientation  age  marital status  family status  disability  receipt of public assistance  record of offence grounds

7 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 7 Code Grounds likely to be used Human rights concerns related to context of non- Citizens and newer immigrants most often relate to following “race-related” grounds:  Race  Colour  Creed  Ancestry  Ethnic Origin  Place of Origin  Citizenship (exception)

8 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 8 Race Neither the Code or Tribunals have defined race OHRC Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination provides framework for definition  Key concept “racialization”  Other race related grounds can be subsumed by “race” Non-citizens and immigrants may have many concerns of discrimination in specified social areas that relate to “racialization” of various identity attributes including:  skin colour, physical features, attire, religious practices, language and accent, place of origin, ethnicity, etc.

9 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 9 Colour Protection from discrimination and harassment based on skin colour has wide application for many non-citizens and immigrants Colour is a separate ground in the Code, but is completely subsumed by “race” Every “colour” ground complaint accompanied by “race” ground complaint

10 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 10 Interpretation of the Grounds - Creed Non-citizens and immigrants from minority religious communities often exercise Code protections based on ground of Creed  Protects personal religious beliefs, practices or observances, even if they are not essential elements of the creed, provided they are sincerely held OHRC currently working on updated Policy on Creed

11 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 11 Ancestry/Ethnic Origin/Place of Origin Three grounds are undefined in the Code Clearly employable in relation to origin outside of Canada Discrimination based on these a vital factor in experience of non-citizens and immigrants Have rarely been used relating to human rights of citizens and non-immigrants Potential exists for case law application and policy development in support of human rights for non- citizens and immigrants

12 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 12 Language Not a ground in Code but OHRC Policy on Discrimination and Language affirms that complaints based on discrimination based on language or accent can be filed as a subset of the grounds of ethnic origin, place of origin, and ancestry

13 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 13 Citizenship Discrimination based on citizenship prohibited ground that may support human rights claims of non-citizens and immigrants in Code covered social areas But, with significant exemptions:  Canadian citizenship and/or immigration status required: By law for the purpose of fostering and developing participation in cultural, educational, trade union or athletic activities qualification or consideration adopted by an organization or enterprise for the holder of chief or senior executive positions.

14 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 14 New Human Rights System in Ontario The OHRC no longer receives complaints Complaints (now called applications) are now filed with Ontario Human Rights Tribunal directly and applicants can receive legal support from the Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre OHRC now focused on advancing human rights on level of broader systemic issues

15 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 15 What Can The OHRC Do OHRC functions and activities:  legal interventions  Litigation of public interest applications to Tribunal  Public interest inquiry  policy development  Research  Public education and outreach  Monitoring of legislation and social trends

16 24 September 2010 Ontario Human Rights Commission 16 For further information, please go to the OHRC’s web-site at


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