August 19, 2011

Human Rights Legislation Across Canada

Canada is a country that respects and protects its citizens’ human rights. The Canadian Human Rights Act ensures equality of opportunity and freedom from discrimination in federal jurisdiction, while the provinces and territories have similar laws governing their jurisdictions.

The idea behind the various human rights acts and codes is that people should not be placed at a disadvantage simply because of their age, sex, race, country of origin or any other protected characteristic.

As an employer, that means you cannot discriminate against an employee, or a job candidate, based on one or more of these characteristics. When considering skilled immigrants for a job, or in working with skilled immigrant employees, the most applicable protected characteristics often include race, country of origin and religion.

While the human rights laws across the country are very similar in scope, there are differences between the federal act and the provincial/territorial acts, as well as among the provinces and territories.

The Canadian Human Rights Act applies to the following federally regulated employers:

  • federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations
  • chartered banks
  • airlines
  • television and radio stations
  • interprovincial communications and telephone companies
  • buses and railways that travel between provinces
  • First Nations
  • other federally regulated industries, such as certain mining operations

For examples of private sector employers under federal jurisdiction, please see the list compiled by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Provincial and territorial laws apply to the following types of employers:

  • retail and hospitality businesses, such as a store, a restaurant, a hotel, etc.
  • hospitals or health care providers
  • schools, colleges or universities
  • most manufacturers

To find out more about your obligations as an employer, visit the federal, provincial or territorial human rights body that applies to your organization:

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