F. Human Rights Codes

Author:Robert J. Sharpe - Kent Roach
Profession:Court of Appeal for Ontario - Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

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In domestic Canadian law, human rights codes emerged in the post-war period as important tools in the legal protection of the basic right to be free from discrimination. These codes, first enacted at the provincial level, initially provided protection against racial and religious discrimination. As awareness of other forms of discrimination has grown, so too has the list of forbidden grounds of discrimination. Age and gender followed race and religion, and eventually disability was added. Other grounds found in different codes and applying to various activities include place of origin, marital status, receipt of public assistance, record of offence, and, most recently, sexual orientation.

A significant feature of human rights legislation is that, with some exceptions, anti-discrimination protection is achieved through an administrative process rather than through judges and courts. Typically, legislation creates a commission that is mandated to deal with individual complaints and to take appropriate educative and related remedial measures. Individual complaints are investigated by the commission at no cost to the complainant, and an attempt is made to resolve the matter by agreement or through mediation. Cases that cannot be resolved informally are referred to a judicial-style board of inquiry, which decides disputed questions of fact and law and which...

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