First Reference company logo

First Reference Talks

News and Discussions on Payroll, HR & Employment Law

decorative image

Four proposed prohibited grounds of discrimination

prohibited grounds of discriminationOn September 26, 2018, a private member’s Bill 35, Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2018 was introduced and received first reading in the Ontario legislature.

The goal of Bill 35 is to add immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records, and social condition as prohibited grounds of discrimination in Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

You may recall that I discussed proposed prohibited grounds of discrimination that were recently introduced here and here.

You may also recall that there were two separate versions of proposed human rights legislation drafted in the recent past, namely Ontario Bill 30 and Private Members Bill 164.

Due to the provincial election, these proposed initiatives died on the order paper. However, these initiatives have resurfaced in the form of two newly proposed bills.

Bill 35

Bill 35, Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2018 resembles the previous Bill 164. In fact, when taking a closer look at Bill 35, it becomes clear that it would similarly amend the Human Rights Code to include immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records and social condition as prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Practically speaking, this would mean that every person would have the right to equal treatment without discrimination and harassment because of immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records and social condition with respect to services, goods and facilities, the occupancy of accommodation, the right to contract, employment, and membership in various types of organizations.

In addition to adding the four terms into the various provisions that list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, Bill 35 would also define “immigration status” as the status according to Canadian immigration law. Additionally, it would define “police records” to include charges and convictions, with or without a record suspension, and any police records including records of a person’s contact with police (this term would replace the existing phrase, “record of offences”).

Moreover, Bill 35 would define “social condition” as social or economic disadvantage resulting from employment status, source or level of income, housing status including homelessness, level of education, or any other circumstance similar to those mentioned herein.

Furthermore, Bill 35 clearly states that the right to equal treatment without discrimination because of genetic characteristics includes the right to equal treatment without discrimination because a person refuses to undergo a genetic test or refuses to disclose, or authorize the disclosure of, the results of a genetic test.

If passed, Bill 35 would come into force on the day it receives Royal Assent.

Bill 40

Bill 40, Human Rights Code Amendment Act (Genetic Characteristics), 2018, was introduced and received first reading in the Ontario legislature on October 3, 2018. It received second reading and was ordered to the Standing Committee on Legislative Assembly on October 18, 2018.

Unlike Bill 35, Bill 40 would only add genetic characteristics a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Code.

Just as there were noted similarities associated with Bill 35, Bill 40 closely resembles the previous Ontario Bill 30. The purpose of Bill 40 is to include genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

In addition to adding the phrase, “genetic characteristics”, in the various provisions of the Human Rights Code, Bill 40 defines “genetic characteristics” as genetic traits of an individual, including traits that may cause or increase the risk to develop a disorder or disease.

Moreover, Bill 40 stipulates that the right to equal treatment without discrimination because of genetic characteristics includes the right to equal treatment without discrimination because a person refuses to undergo a genetic test or refuses to disclose, or authorize the disclosure of, the results of a genetic test.

There is also a provision in Bill 40 regarding insurance contracts: The right to equal treatment with respect to services and to contract on equal terms without discrimination because of genetic characteristics is not infringed if a contract of automobile, life, accident or sickness or disability insurance or a contract of group insurance between an insurer and an association or person other than an employer, or a life annuity, differentiates or makes a distinction, exclusion, or preference on reasonable and bona fide grounds because of genetic characteristics.

If passed, Bill 40 would come into force on the date it receives Royal Assent.

What is the difference between Bill 35 and Bill 40?

Bill 35 and Bill 40 are similar in some ways, including the date they become effective (Royal Assent), the purpose of making Ontario’s Human Rights Code more inclusive by adding grounds of discrimination and harassment, and they both aim to include genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

However, there are some notable differences between the government and Private Members Bills.

Firstly, there is a difference in scope. Bill 35 proposes to add four new prohibited grounds of discrimination, while Bill 40 would only add one.

Secondly, Bill 35 does not specifically define “genetic characteristics”, whereas Bill 40 does provide a definition.

Thirdly, Bill 40 has an added feature that applies to genetic characteristics – there is a provision that addresses insurance contracts (automobile, life, accident, sickness, disability, or group insurance between an insurer and an association or person other than an employer, or a life annuity), that would allow the insurer to differentiate or make a distinction, exclusion, or preference on reasonable and bona fide grounds because of genetic characteristics.

Follow me

Christina Catenacci

Christina Catenacci, BA, LLB, LLM, was called to the Ontario Bar in 2002 and has since been a member of the Ontario Bar Association. Christina worked as an editor with First Reference between February 2005 and August 2015, working on publications including The Human Resources Advisor (Ontario, Western and Atlantic editions), HRinfodesk discussing topics in Labour and Employment Law. Christina has decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Western Ontario beginning in the fall of 2015. Read more
Follow me
Kindle

, , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *