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Human Rights Code Grounds HRCO
Human Rights Code Grounds

Ontario's Human Rights Code, the first in Canada, was enacted in 1962. 

The Code prohibits actions that discriminate against people based on a protected ground in a protected social area. 


17 Protected Grounds of Discrimination

  • Age
    • Age is defined as being 18 years or older, or 16 years or older in housing if you have withdrawn from parental control. The term ‘ageism’, refers to a socially constructed way of thinking about a person’s age based on negative attitudes and stereotypes about aging and a tendency to structure society based on an assumption that everyone is young.

  • Ancestry
    • Lineage of people from whom one is descended.

  • Citizenship
    • Membership of an individual to the nation state.

  • Colour
    • Refers to the skin colour of a person, usually associated with race.

  • Disability
    • The term Disability covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some visible and others not. A disability may have been present from birth, caused by an accident, or developed over time. It includes physical, mental, and learning disabilities, mental disorders, hearing or vision disabilities, epilepsy, drug and alcohol dependencies, environmental sensitivities, as well as other conditions.

  • Ethnic Origin
    • The culture individuals identify with and derive a common heritage or ancestry, or a shared historical past. Everyone is ethnic.

  • Family Status
    • Familial relations that involve care and commitment between parent and child.

  • Gender Expression
    • Gender expression refers to the way in which an individual manifests their masculinity or femininity, through external characteristics such as hairstyles, clothing and speech. Gender expression is usually an extension of our gender identity.

      Gender expression is generally defined as appearance and behaviours which are interpreted as inconsistent with one’s born and raised sex.


  • Gender Identity
    • Gender identity refers to an individual’s intrinsic sense of self and particularly, their inner sense of being male or female. An individual’s gender identity may or may not conform to their birth- assigned sex and may include transgender peoples, transsexual peoples, intersex peoples, crossdressers and trans peoples.

  • Marital Status
    • The status of being single, widowed, married, divorced or separated and includes the status of living with a person in a conjugal relationship outside marriage.

  • Place of Origin
    • The country where a person was born.

  • Race
    • A socially constructed identity which refers to a group of people of common ancestry, distinguished by physical characteristics such as color of skin, shape of eyes, hair texture or facial features.

  • Receipt of Public Assistance
    • The receipt of governmental provision of economic assistance available to people in need. For example in Canada, ‘Child and Family Benefits’ is an economic assistance provided by the government.

  • Record of Offences
    • A conviction for an offence in which a pardon has been granted under the Criminal Records Act (1985) and has not been revoked.

  • Religion/Creed
    • Practices, beliefs and observances that are part of an organized faith or religion. Religion/Creed is broadly accepted by the Ontario Human Rights Code (1990) to include non-deistic bodies of faith and spiritual practices.

  • Sex
    • Related to a person's biological sex, male or female.

  • Sexual Orientation
    • Sexual Orientation refers to the range of human sexuality including gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual orientations.


Five Protected Social Areas

  • Accomodation
  • Contracts
  • Employment
  • Goods, services and facilities
  • Membership in unions, trade or professional associations17 grounds for the Human Rights Code 


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