Glossary of Terms
Human Rights Related Terms and Definitions
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, this Policy. It is not discrimination or a contravention of this Policy to plan, advertise, adopt or implement a program that has as its objective the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups identified by the protected grounds.
The following definitions may further assist with understanding the term discrimination and what it entails:
Sexual Discrimination - includes discrimination on the basis of gender, sex, sexual orientation, etc.
Racial Discrimination - includes discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, etc.
Discrimination on the basis of Disability - involves discrimination against a person on the basis of their physical, psychological or mental ability or impairment.
The Ontario Human Rights Code defines harassment as "engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome".
The following definitions may further assist with understanding the term harassment and what it entails:
"a course" - in most cases, there must be more than one incident for behaviour to be defined as harassment. However, courts in Canada have found that a single unwelcome incident, if serious enough, can be sufficient to support a harassment complaint.
"vexatious"- unwelcome and has little or no useful, legitimate purpose in the context in which it takes place.
"comment or conduct" - the use of the two terms - comment or conduct - includes actions and words. The actions or words may or may not be aimed at the person complaining of harassment; they may not be aimed at anyone at all. If they are unwelcome and create a poisoned environment, they could be considered harassment.
"known or ought reasonably to be known" - this phrase encompasses both a subjective and objective element. Even if a person is not aware that her behaviour is unwelcome (subjective), if a reasonable person in the same situation would have known that the behaviour was unwelcome, then that person "ought reasonably to have known" that her behaviour was unwelcome.
"unwelcome" - this simply means that the person who has brought the complaint does not wish to be exposed to the behaviour. Unwelcome is in the eye of the beholder.
Harassment is often an abuse of social power, but it is important to remember that any person can harass any other person. Harassment is often defined to include any behaviour that creates an intimidating, demeaning or hostile environment. Harassment can take on different forms including:
Sexual Harassment - includes harassment on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation.
Racial Harassment - includes harassment on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, etc.
General Harassment - includes harassing behaviour not on any of the grounds discussed above (i.e. bullying or personal harassment).
Glossary of Terms from the Canadian Human Rights Act
Act - The Canadian Human Rights Act.
Commission - The Canadian Human Rights Commission, an organization under the Act.
Complainant - A person who makes a complaint under the Act.
Complaint - A complaint under the Act.
Discriminatory Practice - The following are examples of discriminatory practices when they are based on one of the grounds of discrimination:
- Denying someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation
- Refusing to employ or continue to employ someone or treating them unfairly in the workplace.
- Paying men and women differently when they are doing work of the same value.
- Following policies or practices that deprive people of employment opportunities.
- Communicating hate messages on the telephone or through the Internet.
- Harassing someone.
- Retaliating against a person who has filed a complaint with the Commission or someone who has filed a complaint for them.
Duty to Accommodate - The duty of an employer to make changes in the workplace to accommodate a person with a disability or for a service provider to adapt the way service is provided.
Federally Regulated - The Act applies to federally regulated employers and service providers. These include:
- Federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations.
- Chartered banks.
- Television and radio stations.
- Interprovincial communications and telephone companies.
- Interprovincial transportation companies, like buses and railways that travel between provinces.
- First Nations governments and some other First Nations organizations.
- Other federally regulated industries, like some mining companies.
Grounds of Discrimination - Grounds of Discrimination include the following:
- National or ethnic origin
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
- Family status
- A conviction for which you have been granted a pardon
Human Rights Officer - A Commission professional who has expertise in human rights.
Public Interest - A matter is in the public interest when there are concerns about public policy or public values.
Respondent - The person or organization against whom a complaint is made.
Retaliate or Retaliation - A negative act or behaviour by or on behalf of the respondent as a result of a complaint filed with the Commission.
Tribunal - The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, an organization under the Act.
Undue Hardship - Circumstances involving cost, health or safety that would make it impossible or very difficult for an employer to meet the duty to accommodate.