While Quebec passes legislation that infringes on a minority group’s rights and freedoms, Ontario introduces a bill that seeks to extend human rights protections against more types of discrimination.
Bill 164 is a private member’s bill by Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers that proposes the inclusion of genetics, immigration status, police records and social class as prohibitive grounds of the Human Rights Code. If passed, discrimination on the basis of such grounds would be considered a violation of people’s rights in Ontario. It would apply in any instances involving employment opportunities, housing and access to public services.
Currently, the human rights code prohibits discrimination based on citizenship, but it does not safeguard those with immigrant status. It also does not protect individuals with minor police records - that is, those who have had contact with authorities or have been charged but not convicted. The bill seeks to protect such individuals from discrimination by employers who refuse to hire persons with a prior conviction, regardless of the details behind the conviction and its relevancy to the position being applied for.
Of the proposed amendments, the most momentous change is the institution of social class as a ground of discrimination. As outlined by the bill, social class regards a person’s employment status, income level and state of homelessness. Including it as a ground of discrimination would send the message that all individuals, even those dealing with poverty or homelessness, are deserving of equal treatment and respect.
Bill 164 will soon be addressed in a second reading, but it will need the support of the attorney general for it to move forward in the legislative process.