Human Rights Laws such as the Ontario Human Rights Code makes it illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed (generally, religious belief or practice), disability, family status (e.g., single parent), marital status (including single status), gender identity, gender expression, receipt of public assistance (in housing only), record of offences (in employment only), sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding), and sexual orientation.
Human Rights Laws protect against discrimination in the following areas: accommodation (housing), contracts, employment, the provision of goods, services and facilities, and membership in unions, trade, or professional associations. One of the things this means is that not all discriminatory decisions or behaviours are violations of Human Rights Laws. The situations where Human Rights Laws do not apply are largely social. A single person who elects not to date, for example, people whose ethnic origins are different from their own are not breaking any Human Rights Laws.
Although institutions like the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) exist to protect Human Rights and individuals who believe they have been discriminated against can file complaints with such bodies, investigations and formal hearings can take a considerable time to play out.
If you believe you have been discriminated against in an area such as employment where your losses will be ongoing or in housing, where alternatives may be limited, your best course is to retain a Human Rights Lawyer. Very often a telephone call, email, or letter from a Human Rights Lawyer will “magically” open doors that were previously closed. In addition, in a successful lawsuit for discrimination, the amount of damages awarded may exceed amounts typically awarded in a hearing conducted by the, for example, the OHRC.
Even if you elect to file a complaint with a sanctioning body like the OHRC, there is nothing to prevent you from hiring your own Human Rights Lawyer to nudge the process along and ensure your case is presented as strongly as possible. Given that human rights violations can be difficult to prove in some circumstances and the financial resources of the OHRC are inevitably limited in each case, when companies or government agencies choose to deny an allegation that your human rights have been violated, the knowledge, experience, investigative, and cross-examining skills your independently retained Human Rights Lawyer will bring to the table may be what tip the balance in your favour.