Human Rights Laws and Inclusion of New Grounds--Criminal Record.

Author:Mckay-Panos, Linda

Various provincial and federal jurisdictions choose to protect people from discrimination on various grounds in areas such as employment, services customarily available to the public and tenancy. In some cases, the grounds protected are the same across jurisdictions. In others, court challenges have resulted in court orders that grounds are to be read into human rights law. For example, "sexual orientation" was read into Alberta's human rights law by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Vriend case in 1998. In addition, over time, provincial legislatures and the federal Parliament come to realize there are vulnerable individuals who experience discrimination, and who should be protected by human rights laws. These governments add grounds to their legislation to address the discrimination. For example, over the past twenty-five years, several grounds have been added to Alberta's human rights law--family status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression--to name a few.

Protection from criminal record discrimination provides a remedy if a person is denied a benefit, such as employment or services, because he/she has a criminal record. However, this protection is not provided everywhere in Canada. The following jurisdictions do not provide any protection from discrimination on the basis of criminal record:

* Alberta Human Rights Act (RSA 2000, c A-25.5)

* Saskatchewan Human Rights Code (SS 1979, c S-24.1)

* New Brunswick Human Rights Act (RSNB 2011, c 171)

* Nova Scotia Human Rights Act (RSNS 1989, c 214)

* Prince Edward Island Human Rights Act (RSPEI 1988, c H-12)

Manitoba's legislation--The Human Rights Code--does not list criminal record as a protected ground (CCSM c H175); however, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission will accept complaints on this basis (Policy #I-12, effective August 16 2002; online

The following jurisdictions provide protection from discrimination on the basis of criminal record in all areas (e.g., services customarily available to the public, tenancy, and employment):

* Canada: Canadian Human Rights Act (RSC 1985, c H-6) prohibits discrimination on the basis of a "conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered". This Act applies to federally regulated companies and undertakings (e.g., banks and transportation companies).

* Northwest...

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