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Canada: Equal opportunities

Original/updating authors: Nafisah Chowdhury, Jenifer Gentle, Andrea Johnson, Ashley Mitchell, Gordon Nekolaichuk, David Tsai and Zeinab Yousif, Miller Thomson

Consultant editor: Margaret Gavins, McCarthy Tétrault


  • The main thrust of human rights legislation is to establish that every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of his or her identification with a specific trait; these traits are generally referred to as prohibited grounds of discrimination and vary among jurisdictions. (See General)
  • The principal exemption to the prohibition of discrimination in employment on the protected grounds is where the discriminatory rule or practice is a "bona fide occupational requirement". (See Exemptions)
  • Every employee has the right to be free from harassment in the workplace on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination. (See Harassment and sexual harassment)
  • All human rights legislation includes a prohibition of reprisals or threats of reprisals against employees exercising their rights pursuant to the legislation. (See Victimisation)
  • Most jurisdictions exempt affirmative action programmes designed to address systemic discrimination from the prohibition of discrimination in employment on protected grounds. (See Positive action)
  • Employees who feel that they have been discriminated against may file a claim in court, file an application or complaint with a labour board/arbitrator or human rights tribunal/commission, or file a grievance with their employer, depending on the circumstances of their employment. (See Remedies and penalties)