Know the difference

BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner

Status: Independent of government, reports to Legislative Assembly.

Purpose: To address the root causes of inequality, discrimination and injustice in B.C. by shifting laws, policies, practices and cultures. We will do this work through education, research, advocacy, inquiry and monitoring.

BC Human Rights Tribunal

Status: Quasi-judicial, reports to Ministry of Attorney General.

Purpose: Accept, screen, mediate, and adjudicate human rights complaints.

BC Human Rights Clinic

Status: Operated by Community Legal Assistance Society, funded by Ministry of Attorney General, BC Law Foundation, Legal Service Society of BC, City of Vancouver and BC Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Purpose: Provide free representation to residents of B.C. who have, or are seeking to have, cases before the Human Rights Tribunal.

Know your grounds

The Human Rights Code forbids discrimination based only on certain personal characteristics. Sometimes these are called “protected characteristics” or “grounds of discrimination”.

The personal characteristics may be someone’s actual characteristic or they may be how they are seen.

For example: It is discrimination to evict a person because they are of First Nations ancestry or because the landlord believes they are of First Nations ancestry.

These are the characteristics protected in the Code:

  • Age

    See video in American Sign Language about age discrimination.

    Age means 19 years or more. It does not apply to purchase of property.

    The Code allows some differential treatment based on age, such as seniority schemes, certain employment benefit plans, and insurance premiums or benefits. Distinctions based on age are not discrimination if permitted or required by legislation or regulation. The Code also allows residential buildings to be reserved for persons 55 and older.

  • Family status

    Family status includes being related to another person by blood, marriage or adoption. It includes family type (for example, a single parent family) and who is in your family. It does not apply to purchase of property. Examples of possible discrimination:

    Not renting to a person because they have children

    Denying a service because the shop owner dislikes the shopper’s father

    Hiring a family member who is no more qualified than other applicants

    Family care obligations may be protected where there is a serious interference with a substantial parental or family duty.

    For example, an employer changes someone’s hours of work, making it impossible for them to provide care for their children

  • Mental disability

    See video in American Sign Language about mental or physical disability.

    Mental disability includes mental conditions that affect or are seen as affecting a person’s abilities.

    For example, it is discrimination to fire an employee based on a concern that they are at risk of developing a disability that might affect their abilities.

    Mental disability includes such conditions as a learning disorder, developmental disability, or illness such as depression or bipolar disorder.

  • Religion

    Religion includes adherence to the practices of a particular faith or genuinely held religious beliefs, and not having religious beliefs.

  • Ancestry

    Ancestry includes where a person’s family is from. Examples include Aboriginal, Cree, Bosnian, Filipino or Persian ancestry. See also “Race, colour, ancestry, and place of origin”.

  • Gender expression

    See video in American Sign Language about gender identity or expression.

    Gender expression is about how a person presents their gender. It includes how a person acts and appears. It can include dress, hair, make-up, body language, and voice. How a person presents their gender may not reflect their gender identity.

  • Physical disability

    See video in American Sign Language about mental or physical disability.

    Physical disability includes physical conditions that affect or are seen as affecting a person’s abilities.

    For example, it is discrimination to fire an employee based on a concern that they are at risk of developing a disability that might affect their abilities.

    Physical disability includes conditions that impair a person’s ability to carry out the normal functions of life. It includes addiction, amputation, asthma, acne, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, high blood pressure, hypertension, obesity and impairments to mobility. It includes people who are Deaf, hard of hearing, or blind. It does not include short-lived conditions such as a cold.

  • Sex

    See video in American Sign Language about sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

    Sex includes being female, male, intersex, Two Spirit, or transgender.

    Sex also includes pregnancy, breast-feeding, and sexual harassment.

  • Colour

    Colour refers to a person’s colour. See also “Race, colour, ancestry, and place of origin”.

  • Gender identity

    See video in American Sign Language about gender identity or expression.

    Gender identity is a person’s sense of their gender, including man, woman, transgender or non-binary. For some people, gender identity is fixed. For others, it is fluid.

  • Place of origin

    Place of origin includes the fact of being born in a particular country or group of countries or region of Canada or the world. See also “Race, ancestry, colour, and place of origin”.

  • Sexual orientation

    See video in American Sign Language about sexual orientation.

    Sexual orientation includes being heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual.

  • Criminal conviction

    Criminal conviction includes being charged with or convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code or another law. It is only protected in employment and membership in a union or occupational association. The Code does not prohibit discrimination if the criminal conviction is related to a person’s employment or intended employment.

  • Marital status

    Marital status includes being married, single, widowed, divorced, separated or living common-law. It includes who your spouse is (for example, you are refused a service because of who your wife is).

  • Political belief

    Political belief includes support of a political party or group that advocates political change, and beliefs about the organization and governance of communities. It includes advocacy for a change to legislation. It is only protected in employment, employment advertisements, and membership in a union or occupational association.

  • Source of income

    Source of income refers to legal sources of income. It is only protected in the area of tenancy. For example, it includes when a person receives:

    • income assistance
    • disability pension benefits
    • rent subsidies
  • Race

    See video in American Sign Language about racial discrimination.

    Race, ancestry, colour and place of origin may be closely connected. Some or all of these grounds may be combined to define a person or group’s ethnic identity. These grounds do not have a precise definition but are meant to capture the negative perceptions that may be associated with them and result in discrimination.

    For example, a group of Latin American workers may share characteristics relating to race, ancestry, colour and place of origin.

It is your province’s and country’s duty to protect those rights and it is your duty to respect the rights of others.