In 1962, Ontario formalized the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Code serves to ensure that the basic human rights of all Ontarians, including the equality, dignity and worth of every human and the right to equal opportunity are protected. Federally-regulated industries, such as telecommunications or banking, meanwhile, are regulated by the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Ontario Human Rights Code stands to ensure that no one in employment, housing or other sectors, can discriminate based on the following protected grounds, among others:
- Race or Ethnic Origin
- Citizenship or Place of Origin
- Family or Marital Status
- Gender Identity or Gender Expression
- Sex; or
- Sexual Orientation.
What this means, in short, is that if you have experienced discrimination due to any of the above factors by an individual or group under the jurisdiction of the Code, your human rights may have been breached, while could empower you to bring a civil claim, or a claim under the Code to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.
If you have decided that some legal action is in order, you must first decide which legal route you would like to take. Decisions in both avenues are made on a case by case basis, and therefore hard and fast rules do not apply. But one major difference is that in actions taken to the OHRT, the plaintiff is able to ask for a public interest remedy, or remedy for future compliance, either instead of or in addition to monetary compensation. This means that the Tribunal, if they find in your favour, is able to order remedies be put in place that would prevent future harm or be in the general interest to the public, such as developing new policies and procedures, implementing training programs, or any other initiative the Tribunal believes will improve sensitivity and decrease discrimination.
Civil suits lack the ability to secure public interest remedies, but may provide for higher monetary compensation through general damages, special damages, awarded for actual financial losses and expenses, as well as other headings of damages, legal costs, and interest.