1. definition
  2. examples and/or illustrations
  3. other useful sources
  4. bibliography


The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.

Oxford University Press. (2014). Discrimination. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/discrimination

  • Act or instance of discrimination
  • Treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit
  • The power of making fine distinctions; discriminating judgment

Dictionary. (2011). Discrimination. Retrieved March 2014, from http://m.dictionary.com/definition/discrimination

  • The practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people
  • The ability to recognize the difference between things that are of good quality and those that are not
  • The ability to understand that one thing is different from another thing

Merriam Webster. (2014). Discrimination. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discrimination

Discrimination may be described as a distinction, whether intentional or not but based on grounds relating to personal characteristics of the individual or group, which has the effect of imposing burdens, obligations, or disadvantages on such individual or group not imposed upon others, or which withholds or limits access to opportunities, benefits, and advantages available to other members of society. Distinctions based on personal characteristics attributed to an individual solely on the basis of association with a group will rarely escape the charge of discrimination, while those based on an individual’s merits and capacities will rarely be so classed.

University of the Fraser Valley. (n.d.). Discrimination defined. Retrieved March 2014, from https://www.ufv.ca/hrcro/discrimination-defined/


Examples and/or Illustrations

  1. Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or a group negatively for reasons such as their race, age or disability. These reasons are known as grounds of discrimination. Federal employers and service providers, as well as employers and service providers of private companies that are regulated by the federal government, cannot discriminate against individuals for these reasons.

These 11 grounds are protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act

  • Race 
  • National or ethnic origin 
  • Colour 
  • Religion 
  • Age 
  • Sex 
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Marital status 
  • Family status 
  • Disability 
  • A conviction for which a pardon has been granted or a record suspended

There are several ways that a person could be discriminated against. The Canadian Human Rights Act calls these discriminatory practices. The following seven discriminatory practices are prohibited by the Canadian Human Rights Act when they are based on one or more of the 11 grounds of discrimination:

  • Denying someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation
  • Providing someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation in a way that treats them adversely and differently
  • Refusing to employ or continue to employ someone, or treating them unfairly in the workplace
  • Following policies or practices that deprive people of employment opportunities
  • Paying men and women differently when they are doing work of the same value 
  • Retaliating against a person who has filed a complaint with the Commission or against someone who has filed a complaint for them.
  • Harassing someone

Canadian Human Rights Commission. (2013). What is discrimination?. Retrieved March 2014, from Canadian Human Rights Commission website: http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/eng/content/what-discrimination

2.  People can be discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity, or race. The following sentence is a clear example of discrimination against homosexuals – “His attorney argues the different treatment represents discrimination against gays and lesbians and is unconstitutional.” Gays and lesbians often become victims of hate crimes, where they are discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.

Oxford University Press. (2014). Discrimination. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/discrimination

3.  In many cases, discrimination results from a tendency to build society as though everyone is the same as the people in power – all young, one gender, one race, one religion or one level of ability. Failing to consider many perspectives, or not planning to include all people, may result in barriers to access for persons identified by the Code. Such barriers, even if unintended, are discrimination.

Ontario Human Rights Commission. (n.d.). What is discrimination?. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/iii-principles-and-concepts/2-what-discrimination

4.  Aboriginal people continue to face discrimination on different levels. They are discriminated against by non-Aboriginal people and they face systemic discrimination within the criminal justice system, where their population continues to be overrepresented in all aspects of the justice system. Discrimination experience by Aboriginal people is related to social categorization and unequal treatment of their population and their interaction with the Canadian government and non-Aboriginal people.

McCaskill, D. (2012). Discrimination and public perceptions of Aboriginal people in Canadian cities. Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network. Retrieved April 2014, from http://uakn.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Discrimination-and-Public-Perceptions-of-Aboriginal-People-in-Canadian-Cities-McCaskill.pdf


Other Useful Sources

Human Rights Legal Support Centre. (n.d.). What is discrimination?. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.hrlsc.on.ca/en/what-is-discrimination

The Law Society of Upper Canada. (2013). Discrimination and harassment counsel. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=2147487009

Government of Canada. (2014). Canadian human rights act. Retrieved March 2014, from http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/h-6/fulltext.html

Canadian Housing Equality Resources. (2007). Prohibited grounds of discrimination. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.equalityrights.org/cher/index.cfm?nav=hr&sub=pro

Canadian Human Rights Reporter. (2013). Human rights primer. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.cdn-hr-reporter.ca/hr_topics/discrimination

Case Law

1. Andrews v. Law Society of British Columbia, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 143

Retrieved March 2014, from http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/407/index.do

2. R. v. Kapp, [2008] 2 S.C.R. 483, 2008 SCC 41

Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/2008/2008scc41/2008scc41.html?searchUrlHash=AAAAAQAKci4gdi4ga2FwcAAAAAAB

Other Related Terms

  1. Differentiation
  2. Isolation
  3. Segregation



Canadian Human Rights Commission. (2013). Discrimination in Canada: A survey of knowledge, attitudes and practices concerned with discrimination. Ottawa: Canadian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/eng/content/i-want-know-more-about-human-rights

Ontario Human Rights Commission. (2008). Human rights at work. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/human-rights-work-2008-third-edition/ii-introducing-ontario-human-rights-code

Human Rights Legal Support Centre. (n.d.). What is discrimination?. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.hrlsc.on.ca/en/what-is-discrimination

Chiefs of Ontario. (2012). United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.maaiinganhosting.com/dev/coo/sites/default/files/files/COO Alternate Report to UNCERD FINAL 2012.pdf

Maureen, S. (2013). Inclusive equality the relational dimensions of systemic discrimination in Canada. Feminist Legal Studies21(3), 323-325. Retrieved March 2014, from http://journals2.scholarsportal.info.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/details/09663622/v21i0003/323_csietrdosdic.xml

United Nations. (2012). International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Retrieved March 2014, from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CERD.aspx

Cassin, A. M., Krawchenko, T., & VanderPlaat, M. (2007). Racism and discrimination in Canada: Laws, policies, and practices. (Vol. 3). Halifax: Atlantic Metropolis Centre. Retrieved April 2014, from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/oculryerson/docDetail.action?docID=10248599

Réaume, D. G. (2003). Discrimination and dignity. Louisiana Law Review63(3), 645-696. Retrieved April 2014, from http://www.heinonline.org/HOL/Page?page=645&handle=hein.journals/louilr63&collection=journals