Canada Pride Month 2021: 
What to Do if You Experience LGBTQ Discrimination in Canada

June is Gay Pride Month in Canada and communities in Alberta and across Canada celebrate diversity and LGBTQ individuals, and acknowledge the history, the hardships they have endured, and the progress that has been made toward a world in which we all treat each other with decency and respect. Canada Pride Month 2021 symbolizes freedom and equality, and the value of diversity.  At Fair Legal, we recognize that there are differences of opinion regarding how we go about building a better society, and what that better world looks like.  However, we do not compromise on one core principle, that every one of our clients has a fundamental right to expect to be treated decently, with respect and compassion, and to receive the very best representation we can offer, regardless of gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.   

What is defined as LGBTQ discrimination in Canada?

LGBTQ discrimination in Canada is any discrimination against any individual because of prohibited grounds, including gender identity and sexual orientation, which are different but both protected. The federal government and each of the provinces define these prohibited grounds somewhat differently, but they are generally similar. The Alberta Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In Alberta, the Alberta Human Rights Act states: 

No person shall 

(a)    deny to any person or class of persons any goods, services, accommodation or facilities that are customarily available to the public, or 

(b)    discriminate against any person or class of persons with respect to any goods, services, accommodation or facilities that are customarily available to the public, 

because of … gender, gender identity, gender expression, … family status or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons or of any other person or class of persons. 

That “it is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle and as a matter of public policy that all persons are equal in: dignity, rights and responsibilities without regard to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation;” 

What should I do if I have experienced sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in Canada?

The course of action you take is dependent on the context of the discrimination. These are various ways you can address discrimination in Canada: 

  1. If your life or your property are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. If there isn’t an immediate threat of violence, you can still call the police for guidance but be sure to call your local police’s non-emergency number. 
  2. In the case of harassment, if possible, confront the person who is harassing you and tell them to stop. If their behaviour persists over a period of time, try to keep a written record of what has happened, including names, dates, times, and places. This provides evidence and shows authorities there is a pattern of discrimination/harassment. 
  3. If you experience gender identity discrimination in Canada at work, report it to your employer, who should follow your company’s anti-harassment and/or discrimination policy. However, it’s important to bear in mind that a Human Resources Department works for the organization, not its employees. If you belong to a union, you can check to see if they have grievance procedures for dealing with gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination. 
  4. If you have been physically or sexually assaulted, you should report it to the police as these are offences that fall under the Criminal Code. 
  5. In the event that there is no formal body and the relevant authorities do not deal with the situation at hand, you can file a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission or with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) if your complaint involves discrimination by the federal government or agency or in a federally-regulated industry (such as banking, airlines, interprovincial transportation and communication, first nations, etc.) 

How does a Human Rights Commission work?

Whether your complaint is handled by the Alberta or the Canadian Human Rights Commission, it will be handled in more or less the same way: 

  1. If your complaint is filed in time (e.g., within one year after the contravention) and your complaint sets out reasonable grounds to believe that a contravention has occurred, the Commission will investigate the complaint. 
  2. During the investigation stage, the focus will be on trying to settle the complaint in some way. 
  3. If your complaint cannot be settled, and the Commission believes that the complaint is valid, it will be referred to the Human Rights Tribunal. 
  4. Both the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal have the power to grant remedies that are different than what a court can do.  For example, in Alberta, if the Tribunal finds that a complaint has merit, the Tribunal can order the person against whom the finding was made to do any or all of the following: 

(i)    to cease the contravention complained of; 

(ii)    to refrain in the future from committing the same or any similar contravention; 

(iii)    to make available the rights, opportunities or privileges that person was denied; 

(iv)    to compensate the person discriminated against for all or any part of any wages or income lost or expenses incurred by reason of the contravention; 

(v)    to take any other action the tribunal considers proper to place the person dealt with contrary to this Act in the position the person would have been in but for the contravention of this Act. 

Summary

When it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination in Alberta, you do not need to have legal representation to file a complaint with a Human Rights Commission or with the Alberta courts. However, a lawyer can help you build a stronger case and ensure you follow the correct procedures.  

Similarly, if you are an employer, or a business facing a complaint of discrimination, and you believe that the complaint is unfair or unwarranted a lawyer can help you navigate the issues, provide you with advice regarding the law and how best to comply.  A lawyer is indispensable to represent your business in tribunal hearings or in court. 

Fair Legal Workplace Diversity and Anti-Discrimination Policy

The team at Fair Legal does not discriminate in our decision whether to accept a client case and we are committed to providing a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment. We are proud to represent individuals who face sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination or harassment. 

If you are the victim of gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination or harassment, contact Fair Legal to protect your rights and advocate for fair and equal treatment.  

We also represent businesses facing unfair or unwarranted complaints of discrimination. We welcome the opportunity to help your business get it right when it comes to discrimination and complying with the Alberta Human Rights Act. 

Contact us at 1 (403) 239-2249 to schedule a confidential meeting with a member of our legal team. 

Disclaimer

The information about legal rights and duties is a general description of the law as of the date this page was written. Laws are always changing, and how they apply to your situation may be, and often is, very different than what has been described on this page. This information is NOT a substitute for legal advice that takes into account your personal circumstances and any changes to the law that may have occurred since this page was written.

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