Human Rights By-Law – Background Information

CHFC Appendix C to the Human Rights By-Law

This  Attachment  contains  background  information  relating  to  the  Model  Human Rights  By-law.  It  does  not  form  part  of  the  By-law  itself.

This  Attachment  may  be  updated  from  time  to  time.  The  CHF  Canada  website should  be  checked  for  the  most  recent  version.

GENERAL  INFORMATION

1.    Why  have  a  Human  Rights  By-law?

The  Model  Human  Rights  By-law  does  two  things.

•    First,  it  states  the  co-op’s  commitment  to  the  Ontario  Human  Rights
Code.

•    Second,  it  states  a  procedure  for  dealing  with  human  rights
problems  at  the  co-op.

2.    What  is  the  Ontario  Human  Rights  Code?

The  Ontario  Human  Rights  Code  is  a  basic  law  of  the  Province  of  Ontario.
It  states  detailed  rules  and  definitions  on  the  human  rights  that  are
protected  in  Ontario.  It  states  procedures  on  how  those  rights  can  be
enforced.

The  rules  in  the  Human  Rights  Code  are  explained  by  decisions  of  courts and  tribunals  on  what  the  Code  means  and  by  policy  statements  and  other materials  issued  by  the  Ontario  Human  Rights  Commission.

3.    Does  the  Human  Rights  By-law  state  the  human  rights  that  are
protected?

No.  People’s  human  rights  are  part  of  the  law  of  the  Province,  not  things that  the  co-op  adopts  in  a  by-law.

The  basic  commitment  to  human  rights  is  a  simple  and  straightforward
principle,  but  working  it  out  according  to  law  is  complicated.  Therefore,
the  basic  commitment  is  in  the  By-law,  but  not  the  detailed  legal  rules.

4.    What  are  the  human  rights  guaranteed  by  the  Human  Rights  Code?

The  Human  Rights  Code  states  that  people  have  a  right  not  be
discriminated  against  or  harassed  on  certain  specific  grounds.  It  is  only
discrimination  on  those  grounds  that  is  illegal.

5.    What  are  the  prohibited  grounds  of  discrimination  in  housing?

The  prohibited  grounds  of  discrimination  in  housing  are:

•    race,
•    ancestry,
•    place  of  origin,
•    colour,
•    ethnic  origin,
•    citizenship,
•    creed,
•    sex,
•    sexual  orientation,
•    age,
•    marital  status,
•    family  status,
•    disability,
•    the  receipt  of  public  assistance,
•    gender  identity,
•    gender  expression.

6.    What  are  the  prohibited  grounds  of  discrimination  in  employment?

Co-ops  are  employers  as  well  as  housing  providers.  The  prohibited  grounds of  discrimination  in  employment  are  the  same  as  in  housing  except:

•    An  employer  cannot  discriminate  based  on  record  of  offences.  A
housing  provider  can  take  record  of  offences  into  consideration.

•    A  housing  provider  cannot  discriminate  based  on  receipt  of  public
assistance.  This  is  not  in  the  list  of  prohibited  grounds  for
employment.

7.    Should  we  change  the  list  for  our  co-op?

This  is  not  recommended.
•    The  list  in  the  Code  is  accompanied  by  definitions  and  other  sections which  explain  and  qualify  the  obligations.  It  is  important  that  these apply.
•    Experience  shows  that  when  co-ops  adjust  the  list,  they  are  basically covering  the  same  things  in  different  words.  But  there  may  be  a slightly  different  meaning  that  is  hard  to  predict.

•    Co-op  by-laws  are  legally  operative  documents.  It  is  important  to  be
accurate  and  consistent  so  that  co-ops  do  not  have  unexpected
liabilities.

HARASSMENT

8.    What  is  harassment?

Harassment  is  inappropriate  comment  or  conduct  that  is  known  or
should  be  known  to  be  unwelcome.  It  is  illegal  if  it  is  on  a  ground  stated in  the  Human  Rights  Code.  The  prohibited  grounds  of  harassment  are substantially  similar  to  the  prohibited  grounds  of  discrimination.

Some  examples  of  harassment  when  based  on  a  prohibited  ground  are:

•    epithets,  slurs  or  jokes;
•    name  calling  or  nicknames;
•    jokes,  cartoons  or  graffiti;
•    verbal  abuse;
•    displaying  offensive  or  derogatory  images;
•    practical  jokes  causing  awkwardness  or  embarrassment;
•    condescending  or  patronizing  behaviour  undermining  a  person’s  self-
respect.

9.    What  is  sexual  harassment?

Sexual  harassment  is  harassment  because  of  sex,  sexual  orientation,
gender  identity  or  gender  expression.  Some  examples  are:

•    gender-related  comments  about  an  individual's  physical
characteristics  or  mannerisms;
•    unwelcome  physical  contact,  patting  or  pinching;
•    suggestive  or  offensive  remarks  or  innuendoes  about  members  of  a
specific  gender;
•    propositions  of  physical  intimacy;
•    gender-related  verbal  abuse,  threats,  or  taunting;
•    leering  or  inappropriate  staring;
•    bragging  about  sexual  prowess;
•    demands  for  dates  or  sexual  favours;
•    offensive  jokes  or  comments  of  a  sexual  nature  about  a  person;
•    display  of  sexually  offensive  pictures,  graffiti,  or  other  materials;
•    questions  or  discussions  about  sexual  activities;
•    paternalism  based  on  gender  which  a  person  feels  undermines  his  or her  self-respect  or  position  of  responsibility;
•    rough  and  vulgar  humour  or  language  related  to  gender.

10.    Are  there  other  kinds  of  sexual  harassment?

Yes.  In  addition,  sexual  harassment  is  any  kind  of  sexual  advance  made by  someone  who  is  in  a  position  to  grant  or  deny  a  benefit  or
advancement  such  as  someone’s  employer  or  superior.  It  is  also  any
reprisal  by  such  a  person  for  rejection  of  a  sexual  advance.

11.    Does  the  victim  have  to  object  for  it  to  be  sexual  harassment?

No.  It  is  not  necessary  for  someone  to  object  to  behaviour  for  it  to  be
contrary  to  the  Human  Rights  Code.

RESPONSIBILITIES  OF  CO-OPS

12.    What  are  the  co-op’s  legal  responsibilities?

As  a  housing  provider  the  co-op  has  to  follow  the  Human  Rights  Code  in all  areas  of  its  operations.  This  includes  its  role  as  housing  provider and as  employer.

The  co-op  is  responsible  for  the  acts  of  the  co-op  as  a  corporation.  It
also  can  have  responsibility  for  the  acts  of  its  staff  and  anyone  acting  on its  behalf.  This  can  include  directors,  officers,  committee  members and others.

13.    Is  the  co-op  responsible  for  the  acts  of  individual  members?

If  the  co-op  is  a  place  where  discriminatory  or  harassing  language  or
acts  are  common,  it  is  said  to  have  a  “poisoned  environment”  or
“poisoned  atmosphere”.  Under  the  Human  Rights  Code  the  co-op  could
be  responsible.

The  co-op  has  to  do  what  is  reasonable  to  ensure  that  the  general
atmosphere  at  the  co-op  is  free  of  discrimination  or  harassment  on
human  rights  grounds.  It  cannot  just  ignore  such  conduct.

ACCOMMODATION  OF  DISABILITIES

14.    Does  someone  who  is  disabled  have  to  obey  the  same  rules  as  other co-op  members?

Yes.  But  those  rules  have  to  be  adjusted  to  allow  for  the  person’s
disability  if  it  can  be  done  without  undue  hardship.

15.    Does  the  co-op  have  to  go  to  special  expense  to  fill  the  needs  of
someone  who  is  disabled?
Yes.  The  co-op  has  to  provide  equal  housing  to  everyone,  including  any members  who  are  disabled.  In  order  to  permit  the  disabled  members  to have  equal  housing,  special  measures  may  be  needed,  such  as  automatic door  openers.

The  co-op  and  anyone  else  providing  accommodation  has  to  take  such
measures  if  it  can  be  done  without  undue  hardship.

16.    What  is  undue  hardship?

Undue  hardship  is  not  defined  in  any  exact  way.  However,  it  would
include  cost,  outside  sources  of  funding,  if  any,  and  health  and  safety
requirements.

17.    Doesn’t  it  cost  a  lot  to  accommodate  people  with  disabilities?

No.  The  Human  Rights  Commission  says  that  a  great  many  examples  of accommodation  can  be  done  very  inexpensively.

For  instance,  some  people  are  highly  sensitive  to  certain  chemicals  such as  cleaning  fluids.  Pricing  out  alternatives  that  are  less  offensive  (and maybe  better  for  the  environment)  shows  that  they  only  cost  a  co-op slightly  more.  The  same  is  true  of  a  great  many  other accommodations.

18.    Is  there  a  hard  and  fast  dollar  limit  for  an  accommodation?

No.  The  Human  Rights  Code  does  not  state  a  specific  limit  and  the
explanations  given  in  court  and  tribunal  cases  do  not  lead  to  any
specific  limit.  You  should  consult  your  local  federation  or  lawyer  when
this  issue  comes  up.

INDIRECT  DISCRIMINATION

19.    What  is  indirect  discrimination?

Indirect  discrimination  is  also  called  “constructive”  discrimination.  It
exists  if  there  is  a  requirement  or  factor  that  is  not  discrimination  on  a
prohibited  ground  but  that  results  in  the  exclusion,  restriction  or
preference  of  a  group  of  persons  identified  by  a  prohibited  ground.

An  example  might  be  religious  beliefs.  Co-ops  might  be  scheduling
meeting  times  for  good  reasons  that  have  nothing  to  do  with  any  human rights  issues.  But  if  a  members’  meeting  falls  on  a  holiday  that  affects  a lot  of  the  members,  that  could  be  indirect  discrimination.

20.    Does  the  co-op  have  to  go  to  expense  or  change  its  rules  to  avoid indirect  discrimination?

Yes.  But  the  co-op’s  obligations  are  subject  to  the  same  test  of  undue
hardship  as  for  accommodating  disabilities.

EQUAL  TREATMENT  FOR  ALL  MEMBERS

21.    Does  accommodating  disabilities  and  avoiding  indirect  discrimination
involve  treating  some  members  better  than  others?

No.  This  is  the  biggest  issue  that  bothers  co-op  members.  Co-ops  are
founded  on  the  basis  that  all  members  have  equal  worth.  This  is  not  like other  kinds  of  corporations  where  worth  depends  on  the  number  of
shares  or  the  amount  of  investment.

But  sometimes  people  have  to  be  treated  differently  in  order  to  receive
equal  service.  For  instance,  no  one  would  suggest  that  there  is  anything wrong  with  giving  a  household  of  five  a  larger  unit  than  a  household  of one.  It  is  accepted  that  this  better  fits  their  needs.

In  the  same  way  co-op  services  need  to  be  adjusted  in  a  sensitive  way to  meet  other  specific  needs  of  co-op  members  if  it  will  not  cause
undue  hardship.

22.    Is  the  co-op  entitled  to  proof  of  the  needs?

Yes.  The  co-op  is  entitled  to  reasonable  evidence  if  there  is  any  need
for  accommodation.

However,  the  most  important  thing  to  remember  is  that  the  member
involved  is  entitled  to  be  treated  with  dignity.  People  should  get  away
from  the  mindset  that  there  is  any  kind  of  “special  privilege”.  Instead
recognize  that  whatever  is  being  done  is  being  done  to  give  service  that is  effectively  equal  to  others.

Therefore,  any  request  should  be  treated  with  respect  and  dignity,  and,
of  course,  complete  confidentiality  on  a  need-to-know  basis.

OTHER  ISSUES

23.    Are  there  other  legal  issues  related  to  the  Human  Rights  Code  and human  rights  at  co-ops?

Yes.  A  lot  of  them.  This  paper  only  skims  the  surface.  It  is  important  to get  legal  advice  when  issues  come  up.

24.    If  a  complaint  is  made  against  the  co-op  to  the  Human  Rights
Tribunal,  what  should  the  co-op  do?

First,  the  co-op  should  report  it  to  the  co-op’s  insurance  company.  The
complaint  might  be  covered  by  the  co-op’s  insurance.

It  is  important  to  do  this  whether  or  not  the  co-op  thinks  there  is  any
merit  in  the  claim.  That  is  because  the  legal  or  other  costs  can  be  very high,  whether  or  not  the  co-op  defeats  any  complaint.  The  insurance company  may  not  provide  coverage  unless  it  is  consulted  from  the beginning.  It  is  a  requirement  of  the  insurance  that  the  co-op  consult  it from  the  beginning.

Second,  the  co-op  should  not  discuss  the  matter  with  the  person
involved  or  their  lawyer  and  no  one  acting  on  the  co-op’s  behalf  should
do  so.

Third,  the  co-op’s  own  lawyer  should  be  notified  in  the  case  the
insurance  company  lawyer  does  not  take  over.

25.    Will  following  the  Human  Rights  By-Law  mean  that  no  claim  can  be made  against  the  co-op?

No.  The  By-law  is  intended  to  be  a  way  to  enhance  human  rights  at  the co-op  and  to  resolve  problems.  However,  anyone  who  is  dissatisfied  or does  not  want  to  use  the  By-law  can  complain  to  the  Human  Rights
Tribunal.