Frequently Asked Questions about Trent's Discrimination and Harassment Policy
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the purpose of the Discrimination and Harassment Policy?
- What commitment is Trent University making through the Discrimination and Harassment Policy?
- Who does the Policy apply to?
- What are "Prohibited Grounds"?
- What is Discrimination?
- What is meant by “Systemic Discrimination”?
- What is meant by “Constructive Discrimination”?
- What is Harassment?
- What is Sexual Harassment?
- What are my rights and responsibilities?
- Does the Policy help me figure what I need to do if I want to make a complaint about being harassed or discriminated against?
- Is there anyone to talk to if I’m unsure about filing a complaint or if I have questions about the Policy?
- Why are parties encouraged to communicate directly (in most circumstances)?
- Is there a deadline to make a complaint?
- Am I protected from retaliation if I make a complaint?
- What happens after I submit a complaint?
- Is the process confidential?
- What if a complaint is made against me?
- How are improperly made complaints addressed?
- Is the Policy up-to-date?
*Correction note: s. 5.5 of the Resolution Procedure to the Policy should cross-reference to s.11.2 not 10.2.
The purpose of the Policy is to affirm Trent University’s commitment to compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code and commitment to the goals of eliminating discriminatory barriers and providing a learning, working and residential environment that is free from discrimination and harassment. The Resolution Procedures to the Policy outline the process for making and resolving complaints related to discrimination and harassment.
In addition to the University’s commitment to compliance with the Code and to the goals of eliminating discriminatory barriers and providing a discrimination- and harassment-free environment, the University commits to ensuring awareness of rights and responsibilities under the Policy. The Policy additionally recognizes the University’s fundamental commitment to the promotion of free inquiry and expression and sets out that Academic Freedom is a fundamental tenet of University life.
The Discrimination and Harassment Policy applies to all members of the University community, including all employees; students; members of the Board of Governors and its committees; volunteers, coaches, interns and contractors who provide products, services or research, while on campus; and all individuals who are located on campus while employed by another organization (e.g., employees of faculty/employee/student unions).The Policy applies to all community members in situations with a substantial connection to the University.
The Ontario Human Rights Code provides that every person has the right to equal treatment without discrimination and harassment on the prohibited grounds of the following:
- Place of Origin
- Creed (religion)
- Ethnic origin
- Family status
- Gender Identity and Gender Expression
- Marital Status
- Receipt of public assistance (in housing only)
- Record of offences (in employment only)
- Sex (including sexual harassment, pregnancy and breastfeeding)
- Sexual orientation
The list of prohibited grounds evolves from time to time with new case decisions or amendments to the Code. For more information about prohibited grounds visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission website.
Discrimination is defined in the Policy as any form of unequal treatment based on one or more prohibited grounds, whether imposing extra burdens or denying benefits. It may be intentional or unintentional. Discrimination may take obvious forms or it may occur in very subtle ways. Where there are many factors affecting a decision or action, if discrimination is one factor, it is a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code and, therefore, the Policy. The Policy recognizes that equity initiatives are not considered discriminatory.
Systemic discrimination occurs when patterns of behaviour, policies or practices which are part of an organization’s structure unintentionally create or perpetuate disadvantage for a group of persons who are identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination. Complaints of systemic discrimination are handled differently than individual complaints.
Constructive discrimination occurs where a requirement, qualification or factor exists results in the exclusion, restriction or preference of a group of persons who are identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination except where the requirement, qualification or factor is reasonable and bona fide in the circumstances. This type of unintentional discrimination is sometimes called “adverse effect” discrimination. Complaints of constructive discrimination are handled differently than individual complaints.
Harassment is a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is based on a protected ground and that is known, or ought to be known, to be unwelcome. A single egregious incident may constitute harassment.
The Discrimination and Harassment Policy specifically covers harassment that is based on protected grounds. Harassment that is not based on protected grounds is covered by Trent University’s Campus Violence and Harassment Policy.
Sexual harassment is a form of harassment involving comment or conduct of a sexual nature that is known, or ought to be known, to be unwelcome where submission to such comment / conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, academic status, or academic accreditation; or submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment, or for academic performance, status or accreditation decisions affecting such individual; or such conduct interferes with an individual's work or academic performance; or such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or academic environment.
Sexual harassment can include but is not limited to: sexual assault or threats of a sexual nature; unwelcome sexual advances, invitations or requests; demands for sexual favours; innuendos, taunting or degrading words about a person's body, appearance or gender/sexual orientation; leering; sexually derogatory or offensive remarks about an individual; inquiries or comments about a person’s sex life; and displays of degrading or offensive sexual material including sexual jokes.
All members of the Trent University community have the right to equal treatment without discrimination and harassment. All community members are expected to refrain from any form of harassment and discrimination, and co-operate in any resolution procedure if necessary. Parties are expected to keep written notes about events and maintain relevant documentation.
Persons in positions of authority have the additional responsibility to respond to allegations of discrimination or harassment in an appropriate and timely manner, consistent with the Policy.
Yes. The Resolution Procedures to the Policy outline the processes involved in making and resolving complaints. The Procedures, however, also emphasize that early communication between parties directly is encouraged in most situations.
Complaints must be made in writing, and submitted to the Human Rights Advisor. Complaints must include the following information:
- What happened – a description of the events or situation
- When it happened – dates and times of the events or incidents
- Where it happened
- Names of witnesses, if any
- Remedy(ies) sought
The Resolution Procedures (PDF) is summarized in the flowchart - available upon request. Please contact CHREA.
Yes. The Human Rights Advisor is available to any member of the Trent University community to assist and provide individuals and groups with information about the Policy, Procedures and other human rights matters. The Human Rights Advisor may also discuss possible available options that should be pursued prior to making a complaint under the Policy as well as alternative options such as filing a grievance (unionized employee) or filing an application to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.
The Human Rights Advisor’s role is not to act as an advocate or provide legal advice. The Human Rights Advisor is charged with the following:
- Helping parties understand and access the Policy and Resolution Procedures.
- Reviewing complaints or potential complaints under the Policy to determine if they properly fall within the scope of the Policy.
- Working with parties to explore early resolution options through voluntary informal resolution
- Acting as an investigator in a complaint under the Procedures.
Members of the university community are encouraged to contact the Human Rights Advisor with Human Rights concerns. All inquiries will be treated confidentially. Parties are also encouraged to communicate with their Union, if applicable.
The Resolution Procedures encourage early communication between parties directly because that can be one of the best chances to bring resolution to an issue. Doing so allows an opportunity for the complaining party to explain the problem as they see it and also to propose possible solutions. The complaining party may also want to express the negative impact they have experienced. Response by the responding party gives the opportunity to provide information from their point of view which can be helpful for both parties.
The Procedures are clear that direct communication, while encouraged, is voluntary and it is recognized that a complaining party may decline to have direct communication where they feel it could lead to escalation of the matter, create safety risks, or where a power differential limits their ability to express concerns.
The Human Rights Advisor is available to speak with parties about strategies for direct communication.
Yes, the Resolution Procedures stipulate that a complaint filed more than five (5) months after the last incident will not be processed. They further state that a complaining party is expected to file their complaint as soon as possible.
An exception to the five (5) month deadline is made where delay was incurred in good faith and no substantial prejudice has been caused which deprives the respondent of a fair opportunity to respond to the complaint.
Yes. The Policy expressly sets out that every individual has the right to raise Human Rights concerns without fear of retaliation or reprisal. This is a central human rights principle as established in the Code. Further, any retaliation or reprisal will be itself treated as a form of harassment / discrimination under the Policy.
The Human Rights Advisor is available to speak with parties about any retaliation concerns.
When a complaint is submitted, the Human Rights Advisor determines whether it falls within the scope of the Policy. If a complaint is within the scope of the Policy, the Human Rights Advisor will communicate with the complainant about the availability of voluntary informal resolution which would aim to have the parties settle the dispute on mutually agreeable terms. Where a party does not wish to participate in informal resolution, or where informal resolution is not successful or suitable, a complaint will proceed to a formal investigation process.
As a complainant you are encouraged to consult with your Union, if applicable, throughout the process. You also have the right to bring a “supportive person” of your choice to any meetings that take place.
For more detailed information, please refer to the Resolution Procedures to the Policy and contact the Human Rights Advisor.
Communications with the Human Rights Advisor are confidential and cannot be shared with any other party without written consent from both the complainant and respondent except where disclosure is required to investigate and/or resolve a complaint, where disclosure is to the complainant’s or respondent’s Union, or where otherwise required by law or under Trent’s Campus Violence & Harassment Policy. The Policy additionally stipulates that parties will also treat information as confidential.
If you are named as a respondent to a complaint that is within the scope of the Policy you will be notified and a copy of the complaint will be provided to you. If you are an employee who is a member of a bargaining unit, notice will also be given to your Union. The Human Rights Advisor may canvass with you whether you are willing to participate in a voluntary informal process with the aim to have the parties settle the dispute on mutually agreeable terms. Where informal resolution is not successful or suitable, or where a party does not wish to participate a complaint will proceed to a formal investigation process.
As a respondent you will be provided a fair and full opportunity to respond to the complaint. You are encouraged to consult with your Union, if applicable, throughout the process. You also have the right to bring a “supportive person” of your choice to any meetings that take place.
Complaints made for an improper purpose, known as “frivolous” or “vexatious” complaints, will be treated seriously. The University retains the right not to proceed where there is sufficient evidence that a complaint is made improperly and, in such cases, may impose sanctions and remedies against a complainant.
After a lengthy consultation and approval process, the current Policy and Resolution Procedures came into effect in 2013. The Policy stipulates that it may be reviewed periodically and that any changes to the Policy must be consistent with prevailing collective agreements and with the Ontario Human Rights Code (which prevails over all university policies and collective agreements).