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FAQ: Discrimination?


What is discrimination?

Could you give some examples of discrimination?

What are the prohibited grounds of discrimination?

How do I know when something is NOT discrimination?

What are some resources I can use to learn more about discrimination?

Click on the image to download our "Discrimination" Factsheet


What is discrimination?

Human rights are rooted in the belief that everyone is born equal in dignity, rights, and freedoms. Discrimination is any action that excludes, isolates, imposes differential treatment, or deprives someone of these rights based on one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Discriminatory actions withhold or limit access to opportunities, benefits, and advantages available to other members of society, thus depriving targeted individuals of their right to the equal recognition and exercise of their human rights and freedoms.

 


 

Could you give some examples of discrimination?

The following are some examples of discrimination

  • A work-study student who gets denied a data entry position he is qualified for because he uses a wheelchair
  • A casual employee who, despite having talked to her manager two months in advance, gets threatened with job loss when she must take a day off for a religious holiday during a hectic period in the office
  • A landlord who refuses to rent an apartment to two Indian graduate students because he’s “had their type before” and “won’t put up with them anymore”
  • A building director who forcibly removes a breastfeeding woman from a library reception area because she is “disturbing the other patrons”
  • A manager who refuses to send her employee to customer service staff development training because she feels that her accent is too strong to help clients
  • A mature student who is refused a position on an undergraduate student committee because the other members feel that he is too old to represent the student body
  • A visibly uncomfortable professor who avoids investigating a student’s complaint that the members of his workgroup have been excluding him because they think he is gay

 

 


 

What are the prohibited grounds of discrimination?

The prohibited grounds of discrimination are enumerated in sec. 10 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and include:

  • Age: Applies to any age or age group except as provided by law. Some age-based distinctions that are not discriminatory include restricting the right to vote to persons 18 years or older, and basing insurance premiums on age, among other factors.
  • Social condition: The specific place or position that a person occupies in society that reflects that person’s income, occupation or education. Examples of social conditions include welfare recipients or homeless persons.
  • Political convictions: Include beliefs expressed by open support of a political ideology, activism on behalf of a political party or social lobby group, or participation in the activities of a trade union.
  • Civil status: Whether a person is single, married, divorced, widowed, adopted, or any form of family ties or kinship.
  • Pregnancy: A woman’s state of pregnancy.
  • Disability: An actual or presumed personal condition arising from a physical or mental impairment of some kind, including loss, malformation, or abnormality of an anatomical organ or of a mental, psychological or physiological structure or function. This ground also refers to the means used to palliate a disability such as a wheelchair, guide dog, or prosthesis.
  • Language: Any language, including an accent. The status of French as Québec's official language is not in itself discriminatory.
  • Sexual orientation: A person’s emotional, romantic and sexual attraction to individuals of a particular gender.
  • Sex: An individual’s female, male, transgender or transsexual gender identity.
  • Race, colour, ethnic or national origin: An individual’s actual or perceived country of origin; membership in a group in society with distinctive social or cultural traits; skin colour.
  • Religion: An individual’s membership or non-membership in a religious denomination. This prohibited ground of discrimination also includes religious practices as well as the right to not be treated differently if you do not belong to any religious denomination or if you do not have any religious beliefs.

 

 


How do I know when something is NOT discrimination?

Differential treatment based on personal characteristics does not always result in discrimination. According to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (sec. 20), a distinction, exclusion or preference is not considered to be discriminatory if:

  • It is based on aptitudes or qualifications that are required for employment or for admission into an educational program; or
  • It is justified by the charitable, philanthropic, religious, political or educational nature of a non-profit institution or of an institution devoted exclusively to the well-being of an ethnic group.

More generally, a rule, standard or practice that creates a distinction based on a personal characteristic is not discriminatory when the following three statements apply:

  • It is adopted for a purpose or goal that is rationally connected to the performance of the job or the service being provided;
  • It is adopted in good faith, in the belief that it is necessary for the fulfillment of the purpose or goal; and
  • It is reasonably necessary to accomplish the purpose or goal.

Such rules, standards or practices are characterized as bona fide occupational requirements (BFORs) in the employment context, or bona fide justifications (BFJs) in the context of the provision of services.

 

 


 

What are some resources I can use to learn more about discrimination?

See the McGill Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law or call a McGill Assessor at 514-398-4911.

Assessors are members of the McGill Community that have been trained to provide information and to investigate complaints under the Policy by any member of the McGill Community that feels that they have been harassed or discriminated against. Phone: 514-398-4911

Student Advocacy
An independent, free advocacy service for McGill students. Phone: 514-398-4384.

Office for Students with Disabilities
Provides services and support for students with disabilities. Phone: 514-398-6009.

First Peoples’ House
A McGill Student Service mandated to support First Nations students. or call 514-398-3217

Queer McGill
A SSMU service that runs social, activist, and support activities for the queer community at McGill.

Black Students’ Network
A SSMU service dedicated to issues in the Black Community. Phone: 398-3001 x 09974

Union for Gender Empowerment
A SSMU service that aims to provide services to any person who identifies with anti-oppressive and trans-inclusive principles, regardless of gender identity. www.ssmu.mcgill.ca/uge or call: 398-6823

Quebec Human Rights Commission