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Posts tagged: Barrie Human Rights Lawyer

Amendments to Increase Human Rights Protections for Ontarians

By , December 4, 2018 10:05 am

Various members of the Ontario legislature are working to give additional human rights protections to Ontarians.

Bill 35, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2018 is a private member’s bill brought by Liberal MPP, Nathalie Des Rosiers.  Whereas Progressive Conservative MPP, Christina Mita introduced Bill 40, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act (Genetic Characteristics), 2018, which has passed Second Reading and been referred to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly.

Given the current makeup of the government, it seems much more likely that Bill 40, rather than Bill 35, will pass and become law.  

Bill 40

Bill 40 proposes to add genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code. “Genetic characteristics” would mean “genetic traits of an individual, including traits that may cause or increase the risk to develop a disorder or disease.” It will also include protections for those who refuse to undergo a genetic test or refuse to disclose, or authorize the disclosure of, the results of a genetic test.

If passed into law, Ontario will join the Federal government in its protection against genetic discrimination. Of note, however, Bill 40 has an exemption for insurance companies allowing them to make distinctions, exclusions, or preferences with reasonable grounds on the basis of genetic characteristics. Practically, the majority of discrimination on the basis of genetic characteristics currently occurs in the provision of insurance, so this bill may have little actual impact.

Bill 35

Bill 35 resurrects a previous private member’s bill, Bill 164, which attempted to significantly alter the Code.

Bill 35 proposes to add immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records, and social condition as human rights grounds.

While each of these grounds warrants a close examination, adding “social condition” would likely cause the most drastic change to the human rights landscape.  Social condition would be defined as social or economic disadvantage arising from employment status; source or level of income; housing status, including homelessness; level of education, or any other circumstance similar to those.

There has been much debate over adding social condition to the Code in the past.  The ground is meant to provide stronger  protection to the most vulnerable individuals in society. As recognized by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the argument for its addition is that poverty frequently intersects with other protected grounds and without an explicit protection on the basis of poverty, the most marginalized members of our communities cannot truly benefit from human rights protection.  

Those against its addition often point to the illusive meaning of ‘social condition.’ They further worry about the strain on the system its addition would have by increasing the overall volume of cases. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario already has a sizeable backlog of cases with lengthy delays between the date of filing an application to the date of a mediation or hearing.

While a significant change, Ontario would not be alone in recognizing social condition as a protected human rights ground. Human rights acts in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Northwest Territories all recognize social condition, social origin, or source of income as protected grounds.

Ontario would also be joining other provinces like British Columbia in having more fulsome protection against discrimination on the basis of “police records.” The Bill proposes to prohibit discrimination due to an individual’s charges, convictions, and contact with police. This would replace the current human rights ground of “record of offences,” which is defined only as an offence for which someone has been pardoned.

Of note, for genetic characteristics, Bill 40 does not include the same exemptions for insurance companies as Bill 35. This means that insurers would not be permitted to make decisions about policy and coverage on the basis of genetic characteristics. Bill 40 would provide much more significant protection to Ontarians on the basis of genetic characteristics.

If all of the changes in Bill 35 became law, employers, service providers, and landlords would need to carefully examine their policies and practices to ensure they are compliant with the new law.  

If you have any questions about  your human rights or these amendments, you can contact MacLeod Law Firm at 647-204-8107 or at [email protected]

The material and information in this blog and this website are for general information only. They should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information referred to in this blog or its links. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog. Readers should obtain appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.

Physical Assault and Trans Slurs Compensated With Only $15,000

By , May 3, 2016 11:25 am

Unlike several US states, in Ontario, individuals may use the washroom of their gender identity, not biology. Despite this protection, transgendered Ontarians continue to experience horrific treatment from some establishments.

A recent decision of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (“the Tribunal”), illustrates the ongoing battle Trans persons face.

The Case

In Lewis v. Sugar Daddys Nightclub, 2016 HRTO 347 the Tribunal heard the story of an applicant, Cesar Lewis, who was physically and verbally assaulted by security at Sugar Daddys Nightclub.

In January 2014, Lewis visited the nightclub with several friends.  At the time, Lewis identified as ‘transgender neutral questioning transgender male’ likely meaning that Lewis was born female and was considering transitioning to male but had not entirely commenced or completed that transition.

At one point in the evening, Lewis entered the men’s washroom, as was the right in Ontario.  While in the washroom cubicle, Lewis was accosted by the nightclub’s security. The security guard then proceeded to pull Lewis out of the washroom resulting in urine soaking his pants. After an argument, and upon learning that Lewis’ identification used a female name, the security guard forcibly dragged Lewis from the nightclub using slurs such as “you freaks need to get your fucking faggot asses out of this club” and I told “you faggot dykes to leave.” Outside the club, the security guard slapped Lewis in the face, pushed him to the ground and kicked his back and head at least 10 times. Lewis eventually got free and sought medical and police assistance.

At the Tribunal, the Vice-Chair hearing this evidence acknowledged the principle that human rights damages ought not to be so low as to trivialize human rights and create a license to discriminate.  The Vice-Chair further noted that the objective seriousness of the conduct is relevant to the award.  Despite this, the Vice-Chair then ordered $15,000 to compensate Lewis for the treatment experienced at the hands of Sugar Daddys Nightclub staff.

Lessons

In 2012, gender identity and expression were added to the Ontario Human Rights Code as protected grounds.  This was a positive step for Trans rights in Ontario.  However, this legislative right alone, cannot result in actual change in society. Rights must be accompanied by real consequences of a breach by an individual or business.

The Lewis decision demonstrates the ongoing need for the Tribunal to re-evaluate its remedies.  As I have said before, low damage awards for serious breaches of the Code, can do more harm than good. Serious physical assault accompanied by prejudicial slurs must be compensated with more than $15,000 if human rights in Ontario are to have any meaning.

If you have experienced a violation of your human rights a lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm can assist you. Please contact us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.

“The material and information provided on this blog and this website are for general information only and should not, in any respect, be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information linked or referred to or contained herein. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog, without first retaining counsel and obtaining appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed to practice law in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.”

 

 

 

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