Document Type


Publication Date


Source Publication

2/2016 (2016) IUS Labour, 159-67


The principle that everyone has a right to equal treatment was first entrenched in Canadian law in the aftermath of the Second World War when legislation began to be enacted prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, race and religion. Since that time, the grounds of prohibited discrimination have steadily increased. These grounds will be discussed in greater detail in the answer to question 1. Because Canada is a federal state and courts have held that legislative authority over human rights is primarily a matter of provincial jurisdiction, there is no uniform law of Canada. Nevertheless, the provisions of statutory human rights codes (HRCs) are quite similar across the country. There is, however, a second, more recent source of equality rights, and that is section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter), which came into force in 1985. Section 15 guarantees the “right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability” but also applies to other analogous grounds that courts may identify. The Charter is part of Canada’s constitution and thus is national in scope. However it only applies to state action and so while it does not apply to private employers, it can be used to challenge legislation that violates equality rights as well as actions performed by government in its role as an employer.