The University of Ottawa complies with the provisions related to discrimination that are contained in Ontario’s Human Rights CodeOccupational Health and Safety Act and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act. In some situations, discrimination is considered criminal under Canada’s Criminal Code.

Ontario’s Human Rights Code provides that every person has the right to equal treatment with respect to goods, services, facilities, housing, contracts and employment as well as membership in trade or professional associations and unions without discrimination because of:

  • Race
  • Ancestry
  • Place of origin
  • Colour
  • Ethnic origin
  • Citizenship
  • Creed
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression
  • Age
  • Record of offence
  • Receipt of  public assistance
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Disability

Although the Human Rights Code does not provide a definition of discrimination, the notion of discrimination covers unfair treatment on the basis of race, disability, sex or any other personal characteristic. It can take many different forms, can target a single person or a group and can be part of a system.

Types of discrimination

Direct discrimination

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “a person discriminates ‘directly’ when the action itself is discriminatory and when the person acts on his or her own behalf.

Example: An employer refuses to consider a pregnant female candidate or one who has just had a child for a promotion.

Indirect discrimination

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, indirect discrimination is discrimination carried out through another person.

Example: An employee asks the director to not consider a female candidate who is pregnant or wishes to have children for a promotion.

Sometimes a rule or practice unintentionally singles out particular people and results in unequal treatment. This type of unintentional discrimination is called “constructive” or “adverse effect” discrimination. The Human Rights Code also protects against this type of discrimination.

Example: An internal policy that provides an attendance bonus for employees who work over a certain number of overtime hours in a year.

Systemic discrimination

Systemic discrimination results when organizational policies, practices and cultures, for example, create or perpetuate unequal treatment of a person or persons.

Example: A policy stipulating that firefighters must meet a height requirement of six feet, which disadvantages most women, for example.

For more information on discrimination, please visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission website.

What to do?

What to do if...I experience discrimination?

Contact the Harassment and Discrimination Officer.The officer is available to discuss your concerns and to provide information, support and advice.

  1. Speak up as soon as you realize there’s a problem. Tell the person that you find his or her behaviour offensive. Be specific about the behaviour in question:

    “I find your remarks about my race offensive. I would like you to no do it again please.”

    “I find your remarks about my sexual orientation disrespectful. I would like you to avoid these kinds of remarks in the future.”
  2. Keep a detailed record of all incidents. Mark the tone, the words or the gestures and include the dates, time, location and names of witnesses if applicable.
  3. Write to the person a letter that includes the following three elements : (i) describe objectively the behaviour in question (ii) express your emotions and (iii) ask the person to stop the behavior. Remember to keep a copy of the letter for your records.
  4. Make a verbal complaint; the discrimination and Harassment Counselor will intervene by meeting with both parties. If everyone agrees, the matter is closed. If things do not settle out of court, the complainant may file a formal complaint.
  5. Place a formal complaint in writing to the Discrimination and Harassment Counselor, in accordance with Regulation (67a) on the prevention of discrimination and harassment. The complaint must be filed within twelve months of the last incident of harassment.

If at any time you feel in danger, contact Protection Services.

What to do if...I have been accused of discrimination?

Treat this situation as serious.

If you believe you may have offended someone, check with them. Discuss the situation openly with the person and listen to them carefully. Take their answer seriously and resolve to never behave this way again.

Know your rights. You have a right to know who made the complaint and the nature of the allegations. You have the right to present your version of the events. You may retain a legal representative at any time.

You have the right to obtain support. Students can connect with their community advisors in residence, a professor with whom they have a supportive relationship, their parents or legal guardians, friends, family or any individual(s) who can offer their assistance. Faculty or Staff can obtain professional assistance from their union, association or from a Human Resource Services representative.

Avoid, if the circumstances permit, all contact with the complainant. Such conduct might be perceived as harassing behaviour. Do not act in any way that could be perceived as an act of retaliation against the complainant.

Keep it confidential. Confidentiality is mandated by internal policies on discrimination and harassment. The confidential nature of the complaint resolution procedures protects the interests of the complainant as well as your interests and fosters a safe environment for a mediated resolution or agreement to occur.

Do find out about the complaint procedures. Cooperate and take part in the process. Respond to the allegations. Behave professionally throughout the process.

Consider whether an agreement is possible to resolve the complaint. You need to be satisfied that a settlement is in your best interests. You voluntarily choose to agree to a settlement; it is never forced upon you.

Apologize if you recognize that you engaged in inappropriate conduct. An apology can go a long way in resolving issues. A sincere apology includes acknowledgement that you engaged in the behaviour, an acknowledgement of the impact of the behaviour on the complainant and a commitment to avoid repetition of the behaviour in question.

For further details, see Policy 67a – Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination and its links to Procedures 36-1 and 36-2. You can also check our diagrams for a simplified outline of the procedures to follow.

Do you need help now?


Protection Services: 613-562-5499

Protection Services (Emergency): 613-562-5411

Police: 911

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