Two Bills proposing significant amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code were recently tabled by the Ontario Legislature. Should the Bills pass and become law, new non-discrimination obligations for provincially regulated employers would be introduced.
Bill 40 – The Less Expansive Approach
Progressive Conservative MPP Christina Mita introduced Bill 40, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act (Genetic Characteristics), 2018. The Bill has passed Second Reading and has been referred to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly.
The private member’s Bill proposes amendments that would prevent discrimination based on genetic characteristics in addition to carving out an exemption provision for insurance contracts, where distinctions, exclusions or preferences on reasonable and bona fide grounds would be permitted on the basis of genetic characteristics.
Under Bill 40, “genetic characteristics” would be defined as the genetic traits of an individual, including traits that may cause or increase the risk to develop a disorder or disease.
Bill 35 – The Expansive Approach
Bill 35, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2018 another private member’s Bill introduced by Liberal MPP, Nathalie Des Rosiers, revives components of Bill 164, a bill previously introduced which attempted to make significant changes to Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
If enacted, Bill 35 would add immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records, and social condition as human rights grounds. These grounds will generally be defined as they were in Bill 164:
- Immigration Status: the status according to Canadian immigration law.
- Police Records: Charges and convictions, with or without a record suspension, and any police records, including records of a person’s contact with police.
- Social Condition: Social or economic disadvantage that results from: (a) employment status;(b) source or level of income; (c) housing status, including homelessness; (d) level of education; or (e) any other circumstance similar to those mentioned in (a), (b), (c), and (d).
Unlike in Bill 40, Bill 35 does not include a proposed definition of “genetic characteristics”, nor does it include any exemptions or exceptions for insurance contracts.
While it is far from certain if either of these Bills will ultimately become law, their existence is part of an ongoing trend at both the federal and provincial levels aimed at expanding the list of human rights protected grounds. We accordingly expect related statutes to continue to evolve in the direction of an expansion of rights, with associated compliance obligations on the part of organizations, including employers. For further information on these bills or related issues, please contact the Toronto employment lawyers at Sultan Lawyers at 416-214-5111.
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