Information On Human Rights Issues And Complaints
Your human rights are protected by provincial legislation and university regulations. Namely, as a student you are entitled to equal rights and opportunities without discrimination. Wherever you feel your right to be free from discrimination or harassment has not been respected during your studies at the University of Ottawa, the Student Rights Centre is here to help.
The following aims to inform you of your rights as defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), link you to university regulations and give you more information on applicable definitions.
Enacted in 1962, the Code protects people in Ontario against discrimination. The Code applies to the following social areas: membership in vocational associations and trade unions; contracts; employment; housing; goods, services and facilities (this last area applies to schools, colleges and universities).
There are seventeen grounds of discrimination:
- Ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin;
- Disability (including mental health and addictions);
- Family status, marital status (including single status);
- Gender identity;
- Gender expression;
- Receipt of Public assistance (in housing only);
- Record of offences (in employment only);
- Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding);
- Sexual orientation.
In Ontario, human rights legislation is remedial to the situation for the person or group discriminated against. The Code grants civil remedies, not criminal penalties.
Ontario’s Human Rights System comprises:
- The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), whose mandate focuses on “preventing discrimination and promoting and advancing human rights”;
- The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) whose purpose is to “provide an expeditious and accessible process to assist parties to resolve applications through mediation, and to decide those applications where the parties are unable to reach a resolution through settlement”
- The Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC), which “provides legal services to individuals who have experienced discrimination”.
The University has established an internal process for dealing with complaints of harassment and discrimination.
Policy 67a on the prevention of harassment and discrimination is the overarching policy for our campus. It includes the University’s policy statement and important definitions.
Procedure 36-1 Complaints of Harassment/Discrimination initiated by students is the “how to” for students to complain. It includes detailed explanations of your options to file a formal or informal complaint.
Complaints under the University policy are filed with the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Office. If you require help or guidance in filing a complaint with the Human Rights Office, please book an appointment, we will be glad to help you.
The University has an official policy regarding sexual violence on campus. It also has resources for survivors and mechanisms to report sexual violence. To learn more, visit the University’s website on sexual violence.
If you have been subjected to sexual violence, we are here to listen, help you with a complaint should you wish to make one, and/or refer you to the appropriate resources.
Discrimination means making a distinction between certain individuals or groups based on a prohibited ground of discrimination as defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code. Whether intentional or unintentional, it is a differential treatment for which there is no reasonable justification, which imposes burdens, obligations or disadvantages to individuals or groups protected by the Code.
Discrimination always involves an action, and can take many forms; direct discrimination happens for example when an individual is expressly denied a service based on a protected ground (ex: ancestry, creed, disability…). Systemic discrimination occurs when policies or established practices exclude, limit or restrict members of designated groups from opportunities. Indirect or “adverse effect” discrimination occurs when seemingly fair policies unintentionally have a discriminatory effect.
More descriptions and examples of discrimination are available on the Ontario Human Rights Commission website.
Harassment as defined by the Code is a form of discrimination based on protected grounds. It designates unwanted physical or verbal conduct reasonably understood as offensive or humiliating. This behaviour can create a negative or hostile living and learning environment (“poisoned environment”), which can interfere with your studies.
Harassment is generally a “course of conduct”; a pattern of behaviour involving more than one incident. A single incident may be categorized as harassment, though this is assessed on a case-by-case basis.