HUMAN RIGHTS IN CANADA

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1 HUMAN RIGHTS IN CANADA

2 Canada has laws that protect your human rights. These are called Human Rights Acts. There is one Act for the Federal government and one Act for each province and territory. The Human Rights Acts are laws that fight discrimination in employment and in the provision of services, facilities and accommodations. In 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms became part of the Canadian Constitution. The Charter is a law that lists and protects the fundamental rights and freedoms that belong to all Canadians. No one should be treated differently because of their age, sex, race, physical or mental ability or anything else that makes them the unique person they are. When this kind of treatment denies people a job they deserve or a service they need, it is called discrimination. Discrimination is unlawful under the Charter and Human Rights Acts. However, there are some forms of discrimination that are not covered in Human Rights Acts or the Charter. To be covered the discrimination must be based on certain elements, called "grounds" that are listed clearly in the Act. For example, "Help Wanted" ads in the paper that say "Men only" are discriminating by sex. Landlords who rent apartments to "Adults only" are discriminating by age. The Charter and the Human Rights Acts protect your rights in very different ways. This information explains the differences: What Is The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? The Charter protects all Canadians. It sets out the rights and freedoms that Canadians believe are essential in a free and democratic society. The Charter is an important document because it is part of the Canadian Constitution and generally speaking all other Canadian laws must be consistent with it. Laws that limit

3 Charter rights may not be valid. Because of this the Charter is the most important law we have in Canada. The Charter has broader protections than Human Rights Acts, it has a different application, and there is a different process for obtaining protection. What Protections Are Included In The Charter of Rights and Freedoms? The Charter applies to all Canadian governments, federal, provincial and territorial. It protects the following: fundamental freedoms, democratic rights the right to live and to seek employment anywhere in Canada legal rights: the right to life, liberty and personal security equality rights for all the official languages of Canada minority language education rights Canada's multicultural heritage and aboriginal peoples' rights The Charter only applies to the actions of governments. How Do I deal With A Charter Violation? When Charter Rights are being denied, you must take your case to court. This means you must hire a lawyer and the process will be long and expensive. This is why you most often see the Charter raised in criminal cases where an accused person is already before a court and may also be eligible for legal aid.

4 What Is The Prince Edward Island Human Rights Act? The Prince Edward Island Human Rights Act protects Islanders from discrimination based on the following grounds: age association colour or race and ethnic or national origin creed or religion criminal conviction (in employment only) family status marital status physical or mental disability political belief sexual orientation source of income sex or gender (including sexual harassment and pregnancy) having filed a complaint or given evidence/assistance under the PEI Human Rights Act The Act applies to people; businesses; professional or trade organizations; unions and associations; and volunteer organizations. There are some special situations when discrimination in employment is permitted and there are some exceptions to the grounds listed. For more information call the Human Rights Commission. The Act protects you in two main areas: employment

5 access to services, facilities, and accommodations You are protected in all areas of employment including Employment Advertisements and Applications. It is illegal for anyone to ask you to put your age, sex, or marital status on a job application form. The following examples are just some ways you may be discriminated against in employment. Hiring - Marian applied for a secretarial position. She was told that she would not be hired because she was pregnant. The firm did not want to hire and train someone else during her maternity leave. This is discrimination because of sex. Promotions - Karnail is an East Indian who has worked at the same job for ten years. Although qualified, he has never been promoted to supervisor and there has never been an East Indian supervisor in his workplace. Karnail has a good work record, he may be experiencing discrimination because of his race. Treatment in the Workplace - Bethany worked in a potato warehouse with coworkers who constantly made sexual remarks, passed around pictures of nude women and told jokes that were degrading to women. When Bethany told her coworkers that she did not like their pictures or their jokes, they laughed at her. She filed a complaint of sex discrimination. Firing from a Job - Walter worked for the same company for fifteen years. His contract was not renewed because the company decided they wanted to make room for younger workers. Walter was discriminated against because of his age.

6 Equal Pay for Equal Work -- Alice and David work in the local fish plant. They both work at the tables extracting meat from the shell. Alice discovered that David earns $.25 more an hour than she does. When she asked why, the boss told her that men traditionally get paid more. Under the Human Rights Act an employer may not pay one employee less than another if both are doing the same kind of work. Alice is being discriminated against because of her sex. Of course one employee may be paid more than another if she's been at the workplace for a longer time. It's also acceptable to have a pay system based on the amount or quality of the work that you do. Access to Services, Facilities or Accommodations Under the Provincial Human Rights Act you are entitled to equal access to services, facilities and accommodations. This means that people should have equal access to: accommodation at motels, hotels and campgrounds services at restaurants, recreational facilities, theatres, concert halls, business establishments, malls, stores etc. health and social services education and educational facilities credit rental accommodations (except where only one sex is accepted, such as boarding houses) the purchase of property professional, business or trade associations participation on a volunteer basis in such public functions as fire protection or hospital services

7 government buildings Derek works downtown in a government office and at lunch time a group of his friends like to go to a restaurant nearby. The restaurant is not accessible. Because Derek is in a wheelchair, he can join them only if he is willing to be carried up and down a flight of stairs by his friends or by restaurant employees. Derek is being denied access to a public facility because he is physically disabled. Mary and Joan, a married couple, have come to the Island for a vacation. Mary had reserved a double room for them at a Charlottetown bed and breakfast. When they arrive the owner tells them that they must stay in separate rooms as she does not rent double rooms to people of the same sex. This is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. To file a complaint under the PEI Human Rights Act contact the Human Rights Commission at 53 Water Street in Charlottetown. The telephone number is Ask to speak to the Intake Officer. Anyone may make a complaint to the Commission. There is no cost and you do not have to hire a lawyer. If the officer decides that your complaint is a human rights complaint she will ask you to fill out a complaint form. You must make your complaint within one year of the event about which you are complaining. On the complaint form you must indicate both an area and a prohibited ground of discrimination covered under the Act. There will be an investigation of your complaint. The Human Rights Commission will also attempt to mediate a solution. If this is not successful and you wish to go ahead, your complaint will be set down for a hearing before a human rights panel. This is an Administrative Tribunal and it is an informal court-like process. More information about the Human Rights Commission and the complaints process is available in a booklet called They re Your Rights to Know which is available from the P. E. I. Human Rights Commission.

8 What Is The Canadian Human Rights Act? This is a federal Act that protects the rights of Canadians. It is the same as the PEI Act in some ways and different in other ways. How are they different? The Canadian Human Rights Act applies only to the Federal Government, federal service providers, and Crown Corporations. Examples are post offices, banks, airlines, ferry companies, radio stations, television stations, and telephone companies. The Canadian Human Rights Act has the power to ask federal employers and service providers to create "employment equity" programs to give opportunities to disadvantaged groups. Research has shown that there are four groups of people in our society who are under-represented in the work force: women persons with disabilities visible minorities aboriginal people Employment Equity is the term used for programs that prevent discrimination by making employers more aware of the barriers that stand in the way of these groups of people. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has the authority to lay a complaint against federal employers or service providers that are not hiring or promoting members of these four disadvantaged groups.

9 The Canadian Human Rights Act calls for equal pay for work of equal value or "pay equity" to end the wage gap between what has traditionally been called "women's work" and what has been considered "men's work". For many years, work that attracted women; for instance, secretarial* work, paid less than male dominated work, for example, mechanical.*. At the same time these jobs may be equal if they are evaluated using the same criteria. In Prince Edward Island there is also a separate Pay Equity Act that applies only to provincial government employees. (*Secretary and mechanic are examples only, they do not refer to an actual evaluation between the two jobs.) How are they similar? Both protect you against discrimination. The discrimination must be based on a "ground" that is clearly listed in the Act. The discrimination must take place in employment or regarding access to services, facilities or accommodations. You must file a complaint to receive protection if your rights have been denied. Filing a complaint begins the same way for both Acts: 1: You must contact, the Human Rights Office, provincial or federal, and make your complaint known. 2: An investigator listens to your story and decides if the Human Rights Commission is legally able to deal with your complaint. (For example, is the complaint based on a ground listed in the Act? Is the incident employment related, or does it relate to services, facilities or accommodations?)

10 3: If the answer is "yes", an investigation starts. At the end of the investigation, the investigator reports to the Commissioners. 4: If there is evidence of discrimination, the complaint may be settled by bringing the two parties together and negotiating a solution which is acceptable to both, this is called mediation. 5: If there is not enough evidence to prove that discrimination took place, then the complaint may be dismissed. At this point the process is different for the two Acts. However the aim of both Commissions is the same, to restore a right that has been denied to you.

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