The Human Rights Code is a statute in the Canadian province of Ontario that guarantees equality before the law and prohibits discrimination in specific social areas such as housing or employment. The code’s goal specifically prohibits discrimination based on race, colour, gender identity or expression, sex, sexual orientation, disability, creed, age and other grounds. The code is administered by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and enforced by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
The Human Rights Code was the first law of its kind in Canada. It replaced various laws that dealt with different kinds of discrimination. The code brought them together into one law and added some new protections. The code came into force on June 15, 1962. June 15 was chosen as the proclamation date for the code because it was the 747th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.
The code replaced the province’s existing anti-discrimination legislation, including:
- Fair Employment Practices Act, 1951 which prohibited discrimination based on race and religion in employment;
- Female Employee’s Fair Remuneration Act, 1951 which prohibited an employer from paying a female employee less money for the same work done by a man in the same establishment
- Fair Accommodation Practices Act, 1954 which prohibited discrimination in public places on racial, religious or ethnic grounds;
- Ontario Anti-Discrimination Commission Act, 1958 which created a commission to administer the above acts and develop educational programs;
At the same time that the Ontario Human Rights Commission was created, the government of the day, led by Premier Leslie Frost introduced an amendment to the Fair Accommodation Practices Act to prohibit discrimination because of race, colour or creed in the renting of apartments in buildings which contain more than six units.
The Human Rights Commission led an extensive review of the Code in the mid-1970s, culminating in a report titled Life Together: A Report on Human Rights in Ontario. Some of the report’s recommendations were adopted in the Ontario Human Rights Code, 1981, which passed in December 1981.
The code prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, marital status, family status, disability, the receipt of public assistance (housing only), record of offences (employment only), or by association with a person identified by any of those grounds.
The most recent amendment to this list was on June 19, 2012, to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds.