Political Belief and Discrimination in Employment Law.

AuthorHunter, Troy
PositionSpecial Report: Employment Law

The Canadian Human Rights Act sets out prohibited grounds of discrimination under s. 3(1):

For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered. In the federal Act political belief is not an enumerated category. There has been discussion within the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal about it because most of the provinces in Canada have political belief as a prohibited ground for discrimination. Why is this the case?

This omission impacts anyone whose employment falls under federal jurisdiction. It is of particular interest to Aboriginal people where First Nations, or its entities such as tribal councils, are governed by the federal Act.

Quebec, Canada--Sep 17th 2018 Native American woman statue in the Place-Royale, a famous cobblestone town square in Old Quebec, Quebec City. Photo credit: Troy Hunter

This omission also seems contrary to Canada's obligations as a signatory to the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, in Article 2, includes political or other opinion as a right and freedom:

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty. When we consider what political belief is, we most likely think of membership in a political party. As Canada has partisan politics as a cornerstone of its foundation, the failure to prohibit discrimination on the basis of political belief by the federal government runs into a deep chasm that should never be.

Political belief can be a tricky thing in many areas of life. In the past, political membership or activity potentially led to discrimination in the realm of economic activity. I heard an anecdote about an entrepreneur from the Edmonton area who was involved in a power project proposal. He attended a...

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