Ontario Extends Protection for Discrimination Against Gender Identity and Gender Expression

At Employment Professionals Canada, we consider it mandatory to keep up on the law as it pertains to unemployment. We would like to share with you a recent decision by the Ontario legislature.

On June 13, 2012, the legislature passed an amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code that extends protection against discrimination on the grounds of gender identity or gender expression. The amendment was proposed in a Private Member Bill and received support from all three parties: Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic.

Bill 33, named Toby’s Act (Right to be Free from Discrimination and Harassment Because of Gender Identity or Gender Expression), 2012 amends the Code to specify that every person has a right to equal treatment without discrimination because of gender identity or gender expression with respect to the following:

  • Services, goods and facilities;
  • Accommodation;
  • Contracting;
  • Employment; and
  • Membership in a trade union, trade or occupational association or self-governing profession.

The Bill also specifies that every person in Ontario has a right to be free from harassment because of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression with respect to accommodation and employment.

The terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” are not defined in the Bill, which will come into force on Royal Assent.

“Jurisdictionally, this will be the first major jurisdiction in all of North America, not just Canada, to pass this gender identity and gender expression into its human rights code. That is significant,” said Cheri DiNovo, the NDP’s MPP.

“I’ve had calls from New York state, from North Carolina — this will have an impact beyond the borders of Canada,” DiNovo said.

How will the new amendments affect employers and service providers? Employers in all industries will have to carefully assess their rights and obligations at the pre-hire stage and throughout the term of employment. They will want to carefully assess current operating procedures and practices to ensure compliance with the Code.

By enshrining, codifying, the rights of trans Ontarians into the Ontario Human Rights Code, I believe, I hope, that we’re sending a very strong message out in the broader community,” said Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi

“Discrimination of any form against anyone, trans or not, is not allowed. It’s unacceptable — and after today it’s against the law.”

If you have any questions on employee rights in Ontario, please feel free to contact Employment Professionals Canada. We’re happy to help!