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– [Narrator] Every person
around the world is entitled
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to basic human rights.
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The treatment we all deserve
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and can expect to receive
simply by being human.
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You have the right to an
education, no matter how you learn.
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The right to get service at a store,
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no matter the colour of your skin,
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and the right to equal pay
for work of equal value.
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At BC’s Office of the
Human Rights Commissioner,
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we want to be part of building
a fair and just society.
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We try to protect human rights
and prevent discrimination
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from happening in the first place.
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But what happens if
someone doesn’t recognize
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or respect your rights?
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If you live anywhere on the land
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now known as British Columbia,
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you are protected by a law
called the Human Rights Code.
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It covers how you should be treated
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in areas like employment,
housing, and services.
If you experience treatment that you think
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goes against in this code,
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BC’s human rights system
is here to support you.
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First, you can file a complaint
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with the Human Rights Tribunal.
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The tribunal is like a court,
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it does not investigate
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but resolves them by
reviewing people’s evidence
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and making decisions or helping people
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resolve things themselves.
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A decision in your favour
could result in compensation,
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new rules or training
that helps to make sure
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no one else will experience
what you experienced.
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You may also need help
with the complaint process,
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the Human Rights Clinic
may be able to help.
Their lawyers and advocates
offer free legal advice
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and can help you decide if
you should file a complaint.
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If you do, they may represent
you for free at the tribunal.
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If your workplace is unionised
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and your complaint is about work,
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you can also talk to your
union about filing a grievance.
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Sometimes discrimination can
be larger than one person
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and one place.
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Human rights can be denied to
you in a way that’s systemic,
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shows up in different ways
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across systems like
public policies or law.
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BC’s office of the Human
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works on systemic human rights issues.
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We’re an independent office
that advocates for changes
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to systems and laws that result
in inequality and injustice.
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We also educate people
about their human rights
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and we monitor provincial government
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and industry actions to
make sure all BC residents
are treated equally.
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Together, we work hand in hand
to support your human rights
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standing up against injustice
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and supporting dignity
and respect for everyone.
What areas of my life are protected from discrimination?
There are certain areas of daily life where the Human Rights Code protects you from harmful treatment.
See this provincial government’s video in American Sign Language about protection in employment.
The Code protects against discrimination in how jobs are advertised, how workers are hired, how workers are paid and how workers are treated at work.
Examples of harmful treatment in employment are:
- Not being offered a job because you are Black
- Not getting paid fairly because women are usually paid less in your office than men doing similar work
- Not getting a promotion because you just got married
- Being disciplined because your religious clothing doesn’t meet the dress code
- Being denied benefits because you are in a same sex relationship
- Not being allowed to return to work because you’ve been on leave for a mental illness
- Being bullied or harassed at work because you are transitioning
- Feeling unsafe at work because discrimination is ongoing and widespread
- Getting fired because you have been off work with a medical problem
The Code protects against discrimination in how property is rented and purchased.
Examples of harmful treatment in housing are:
- A landlord refusing to rent his laneway house to you because you have children
- Not being able to access affordable housing because all social housing in town is two-bedroom units and your parents and three children live with you
- A no-pets rule in your condo being applied to your service dog
- Being bullied or harassed in your apartment building because you are an immigrant
- Getting evicted because you are on social assistance
The Code protects against discrimination in access to services, facilities, and accommodations in B.C. This includes hotels, stores, restaurants, schools, libraries, campgrounds and government and community programs.
Examples of harmful treatment in services are:
- Being refused entry to a restaurant because you are using a wheelchair
- Being stopped by police for crossing the street unsafely because as an Indigenous person you are more likely to be singled out for a minor mistake
- Being removed from volunteer training because you are transgender
- Being bullied in a sports league because you identify as gender fluid
- Being asked to meet additional conditions to get into a community program because you have a seizure disorder
Membership in unions and associations
The Code protects against discrimination for people who are or who want to be members of trade unions, employers’ organizations, and occupational associations.
Examples of harmful treatment in a union or association are:
- Being denied membership because you turned 65
- Having membership suspended because you were charged with a crime
- Being removed because you attended a residential treatment program for a substance use disorder
Publications include things like a public sign, a notice, a flyer, or an article. Publications can also mean things not in writing, such as a speech, a picture, or a video. Communications that are meant to be private are not covered.
The Code protects you from discrimination in publications and from hate speech.
What parts of my identity are protected from discrimination?
The Human Rights Code protects certain parts of your identity from harmful treatment called discrimination. Sometimes these are called “protected characteristics” or “grounds of discrimination.”
See this provincial government video in American Sign Language about age discrimination.
Age means 19 years or older.
This means the Code does not protect against discrimination based on age for those under 19. However, youth 18 years old and younger still have protection against discrimination based on other parts of their identity, such as race.
Examples of discrimination based on age:
- A nursing job is offered to a 30-year-old, when a 60-year-old is more qualified.
- A pipefitter is not given membership in the union because he didn’t get his credentials right after high school.
Family status includes being related to another person by blood, marriage or adoption. It also includes family type (for example, a single parent family) and who is in your family (for example, children).
Examples of discrimination based on family status:
- A property manager won’t rent a house to a person because they have three children.
- A dental office changes the receptionist’s hours of work, making it impossible for them to provide evening care for their children.
Marital status includes being married, single, widowed, divorced, separated or living together (common law). It also includes the identity of your spouse.
Example of discrimination based on marital status:
- A company doesn’t give a promotion to a consultant who just got married because the manager thinks the consultant won’t be willing to travel now that they are married.
- A community clinic decides not to hire a health care worker because her husband speaks out against same-sex relationships.
See this provincial government video in American Sign Language about discrimination based on mental or physical disability.
Physical disability occurs when a physical or social setting makes it hard for a person with a physical condition to participate. Examples of physical impairments include asthma, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and impairments to mobility, hearing, and sight.
Examples of discrimination based on physical disability:
- A taxi driver refuses to give a ride to a person with a guide dog.
- A shelf stocker is off work with a back injury. When she is ready to return to work, the store tells her they no longer have a job for her because they think she won’t be able to lift the heaviest boxes.
- A college advertises a teaching job and says a driver’s license is required to travel to both campuses. An applicant with a heart condition takes public transportation instead of driving and is not considered for the position.
See this provincial government video in American Sign Language about discrimination based on mental or physical disability.
Mental disability occurs when a physical or social setting makes it hard for a person with a mental condition or illness to participate. Examples of mental conditions include a learning disorder or developmental disability. Examples of mental illness include substance use disorder, depression or bipolar disorder.
Examples of discrimination based on mental disability:
- The director of a theatre club doesn’t let an actor come back to work because the director is worried the actor’s depression may make him miss rehearsals.
- A university student with schizophrenia is asked to give medical information before being accepted into the Study Abroad program.
- After receiving treatment for an addiction, the professional regulatory association refuses to renew the dentist’s membership.
Race, colour, place of origin, and ancestry
See this provincial government video in American Sign Language about racial discrimination.
Race, colour, place of origin and ancestry are often closely connected. Some or all of these may be combined to define a person or group’s ethnic identity.
- Race includes socio-cultural or ethnic groups such as First Nations, Métis, Chinese or South Asian.
- Place of origin includes being born in a particular country or group of countries or region of Canada or the world.
- Ancestry includes where a person’s family is from. Examples include Indigenous, Cree, Bosnian, Filipino or Persian ancestry.
Examples of discrimination based on race, colour, place of origin, and ancestry:
- The community rink won’t let the Indigenous team book ice time for practices.
- The property manager of the apartment building made so many rude comments about the smell of their cooking, the Chinese family felt they had to find a new place to live.
- A Black man applies for a job at a car dealership in the mostly white suburbs. The hiring manager doesn’t give him the job, saying “I just don’t think our customers would trust you.”
Indigenous means First Nations, Métis, or Inuit peoples. Indigenous peoples have distinct languages, cultures, relationships to the land, and ways of living together that are unique and predate contact with settlers. Many Indigenous peoples are also likely to identify as belonging to their specific nations. For example, Haida or Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.
Examples of discrimination based on Indigenous identity:
- A municipality won’t let a hockey team from a nearby reserve rent a rink for practices.
- A landlord evicts an Indigenous woman from her apartment because she is practicing the Indigenous spiritual ritual of burning herbs (smudging).
- The police break up a group of teenagers at the beach because they are drinking beer. Only the Indigenous teenager is taken to the police station for questioning.
See this provincial government video in American Sign Language about sex discrimination and sexual harassment from the provincial government.
Sex includes being female, male or intersex. This part of your identity also includes being pregnant or breastfeeding.
Sexual harassment is considered discrimination based on sex.
Examples of discrimination based on sex:
- Young men at a financial company get paid bigger bonuses than the women who meet the same sales goals.
- A woman is asked to leave a restaurant because she is breastfeeding her child in public
- A transgender person is sexually harassed when their landlord keeps offering to lower their rent in return for sexual favours
Gender identity or expression
See this provincial government video in American Sign Language about gender identity or expression.
Gender identity is a person’s sense of their gender, including whether they identify as a cisgender or transgender man, woman, Two Spirit or non-binary person, or otherwise. For some people, gender identity is fixed. For others, it is fluid.
Gender expression is how a person presents their gender. It includes how a person acts and appears. It can include dress, hair, makeup, body language and voice. How a person presents their gender may be different than their gender identity.
Gender identity or expression includes what pronouns a person uses, such as he, she or they.
Examples of discrimination based on gender identity or expression:
- A homecare worker is in the process of changing their appearance, name, and pronouns at work. The manager reassigns long-term clients to another worker saying, “We don’t want our clients to be uncomfortable.”
- A factory refuses to update a mechanic’s identity card when she informs them about her new name and pronouns.
- After talking to the head coach, an athlete quits the women’s soccer league because her teammates keep bullying her about her short hair and men’s clothes.
See this provincial government video in American Sign Language about sexual orientation.
Sexual orientation includes being heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual.
An example of discrimination based on sexual orientation:
- A couple is told to leave the weekend yoga retreat for couples because they are both men.
- A travel agency lets their agents take spouses on work trips. One travel agent is told not to bring her spouse because they are a same-sex couple.
Religion includes following the practices of a particular faith, genuinely held religious beliefs or not having religious beliefs.
Examples of discrimination based on religion:
- A restaurant gives a woman wearing a religious head scarf a warning for not following the dress code. “You can’t work here if you don’t follow the dress code. There are no exceptions,” says the supervisor.
- A cleaning company refuses to change the schedule so that a custodian can work on Sunday instead of Saturday. The custodian can’t work a Saturday shift due to his religion and loses his job.
Criminal conviction includes being charged with or convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code or another law.
An example of discrimination based on criminal conviction:
- A financial company refuses to hire an accountant because he was arrested for a minor drug charge when he was a teenager.
Political belief includes support of a political party or group that advocates political change, and beliefs about the governance of communities. It also includes advocacy for a change to the law.
An example of discrimination based on political belief:
- A veterinarian who applies for a job is not hired because they volunteer for a political party the other veterinarians don’t support.
Source of income
Source of income refers to legal sources of income. For example, it includes when a person receives income assistance, disability pension benefits or rent subsidies.
An example of discrimination based on source of income:
- A renter is evicted from an apartment when they start using rent subsidies to pay the rent.
How can I tell if I’ve experienced discrimination?
If you experience harm in one of the areas based on one or more parts of your identity, you may have experienced discrimination.
See this provincial government video in American Sign Language about discrimination.
It might be more complicated though. Here are some additional questions to think about.
What if they didn’t mean to discriminate?
A person or organization can discriminate without meaning to. Even if they didn’t intend to cause harm, their actions may be discriminatory.
- The owner of a cleaning company requires all workers to take a turn working one Saturday each month. This rule is not intended to be harm anyone, but a Jewish worker may not be able to work on Saturdays as it is a religious day of rest.
- A law office assigns more high-profile cases to male lawyers than female lawyers. The law office doesn’t notice they are being unfair, but the female lawyers don’t get the same career opportunities.
How do I know it was based on my identity?
The harm you experience must be connected to a part of your identity protected by the Code for it to be considered discriminatory.
Sometimes it is easy to see if you are being treated badly because of a part of your identity.
For example, a blind person applying for a job at a call centre is told, “We can’t hire you because you won’t be able to see the messages on our phone system.”
Sometimes more information is needed to know if the harm and the part of your identity are connected.
For example, a hospital fires a pregnant nurse. The hospital may have fired the nurse because of the pregnancy, but more information is needed. Did the hospital know the nurse was pregnant when they fired them? Are there other reasons the hospital may have fired the nurse?
You may experience harm because someone thought you have a certain identity that may not be true about you.
For example, the manager doesn’t offer you the promotion because he thinks you are younger than you are. This would be discrimination even if the manager isn’t right about your age.
What kinds of discrimination aren’t covered by the Code?
Not all parts of your identity are protected in all areas of life.
Here are some examples:
- Criminal conviction is only protected in employment and membership in a union or occupational association.
- Political belief is only protected in employment.
- Source of income is only protected in tenancy.
- Age does not apply to the purchase of property or membership in a union or occupational association.
- Family status does not apply to purchase of property.
There are some situations where people are treated differently because of a part of their identity, but they are not protected by the Code.
- Employment benefit plans and insurance plans can make decisions about premiums and benefits based on age and disability.
- Certain residential buildings can reserve units just for people over the age of 55.
- An employer can refuse to hire someone with a criminal conviction if the criminal conviction is related to the job.
- A person can choose not to rent to someone if they will be sharing cooking, sleeping, and bathroom space with them.
What about an accommodation?
Under the Code, employers, landlords, and service providers have the responsibility to take steps to avoid harm to you based on a part of your identity. This is called the duty to accommodate.
Accommodations are different for each person. Some common examples include:
- Adjusting the exam time for a student who takes accessible transit to campus and can’t arrive at the exam start time
- Permitting an employee to wear a turban at work instead of following a dress code
- Providing a screen-reading program for a student with low vision
- Providing curbside pick-up service to a shopper who can’t wear a mask in the store
Employers, landlords and service providers are responsible to work with you to learn about your needs and find reasonable solutions.
Employers, landlords and service providers are expected to put time, effort and money into providing accommodations to avoid harm. But there might be times where the accommodations required are not reasonable for an employer, landlord or service provider to put in place. This is called undue hardship. An employer, landlord or service provider is only required to accommodate you up to the point of undue hardship.