(The following materials have been adapted from the Ontario Human Rights Commission)

a)       Racism
Racism is a broader experience and practice than racial discrimination. It is a belief that either directly or indirectly asserts that one group is inherently superior to others. Racism can be openly displayed in racial jokes and slurs or hate crimes, but can also be more deeply rooted in attitudes, values and stereotypical beliefs. In some cases, people may not be aware they hold racist beliefs and these beliefs may have evolved over time, becoming embedded in systems and institutions, and also associated with the dominant group’s power and privilege.

See “How does gender discrimination affect the Japanese Canadian community?

b)       Racial discrimination
Racial discrimination is not allowed under human rights law. It is any action based on a person’s race, intentional or not, that imposes burdens on a person or group and not on others, or that withholds or limits access to benefits available to other members of society in areas protected under human rights law. Race only needs to be one factor in a situation for racial discrimination to have occurred.

Racial discrimination can often be very subtle, such as being assigned to less desirable jobs, or being denied mentoring and training opportunities in the workplace. It might also mean being subjected to different management standards than other workers, being denied an apartment because of your ancestry or facing unfair monitoring by police while driving or by security staff at a shopping mall because of your race.

c)       Systemic racial discrimination
Racial discrimination can arise on a systemic or institutional level from everyday rules and structures that are not consciously intended or designed to discriminate. Patterns of behaviour, policies or practices that are part of the structures of an organization or an entire sector can create or perpetuate disadvantage for racialized persons. Organizations should be aware that their “normal way of doing things” might be having a negative impact on racialized persons.

For example, in the education sector, systemic discrimination can include: stereotyping that streams racialized students towards technical programs instead of academic ones; or low representation of racialized principals as a result of promotion practices that embed cultural and organizational factors that favour White applicants.

d)       Racial profiling
(Adapted from Alberta Human Rights Commission website)
Racial profiling occurs when an individual is subjected to differential treatment or greater scrutiny because of negative stereotypes related to that person’s race or other grounds such as religious beliefs, colour, ancestry or place of origin or a combination of these. For example, a Muslim may experience racial profiling on the basis of stereotypes about his or her religion. Racial profiling can also involve other factors such as gender and age. For example, a young black man may experience racial profiling on the basis of stereotypes about his age, colour and gender. Typically,but not always, the reasons given for racial profiling carried out by people in authority are safety, security and public protection.

Racial profiling can occur in any of the following areas:

• publications and notices 
• goods, services, accommodation and facilities 
• tenancy 
• employment practices 
• applications and advertising regarding employment 
• membership in trade unions, employers’ organizations or occupational associations
. When racial profiling results in discrimination, affected individuals are protected under human rights law because discrimination based on race or other protected grounds such as religious belief, colour, ancestry and place of origin is prohibited under human rights law. Discrimination based on gender and age is also prohibited under the human rights law.

Examples of racial profiling that can result in discrimination
• A law enforcement officer stops and searches vehicles driven by young black males more frequently than vehicles driven by other people because of an assumption that young black males are more likely to be engaged in criminal activity.
• A store owner refuses to sell an Aboriginal patron a paint thinner based on stereotypes about Aboriginal people as solvent abusers.
• A youth of Asian heritage is refused entry to a bar because of the belief that youth of Asian heritage are associated with gangs.
• An employer wants a stricter security clearance for a Muslim employee after September 11th because of assumptions that Muslims are involved in terrorist activity

e)       Harassment
(Adapted from “Bilingual Human Rights Guide for Japanese Canadians”)
This is a form of discrimination. It includes comments, jokes, name-calling, display of pictures or behaviour that insults you, embarrasses you or puts you down, if a reasonable person would have known it was unwelcome.  It is based on at least one of the personal characteristics protected under human right law.  Harassment involves actions such as inappropriate touching or pushing, comments such as jokes, insults or name-calling or displays such as posters or cartoons.

Racial harassment is offensive comments and jokes about race, colour, ancestry, ethnicity, national origin or religion.

Sexual harassment is offensive, unwanted and unwelcome comments or actions that that are of a sexual or gender-related nature.  Such actions include inappropriate physical contact such as touching, patting, pinching or sexual assault, offensive jokes or remarks about men or women, making sexual requests or suggestions, staring at or making unwelcome comments about your body, displaying sexually offensive pictures, being verbally abusive to you because of your gender. (See “What is Sexual Harassment?”)

An action does not have to be directed at someone personally to be considered harassment either.  Making stereotypical comments about a sex, gender or racial group can also be considered harassment if it causes offense to someone listening.

f)        Reasonable Accommodation
(Adapted from Yukon Human Rights Commission website information)
An employer or business or organization providing services, goods or facilities to the public may be required to reasonably accommodate the needs of people who are protected under human rights law.  Human rights law recognizes that employers or businesses or organizations may have operating rules, policies and procedures necessary for business reasons, but it may be necessary for them to adjust them to allow for people with disabilities, older workers, employees with religious needs, pregnant women and employees with family responsibilities to participate in the workplace or to get access to services.  Requests for accommodate may be limited due to “undue hardship” such as health and safety reasons or the costs of the accommodation or other impacts on the services or workplace.

Examples of accommodation in the workplace include:

  • Assigning an employee to a different job, taking away or substituting duties, or sharing duties between employees to accommodate someone with a disability or recovering from an illness or injury.
  • Making changes to equipment and/or to the physical workspace to accommodate people with disabilities.
  • Offering employees flexible work schedules and/or giving them the opportunity to work part-time to accommodate their needs as parents or caregivers for family members.
  • Helping to meet the needs of an employee with a disability by giving them special equipment or aids such as an interpreter or rearranging the work space to allow for wheelchair access or adjusting the work schedule for a gradual return to work after an illness or injury.
  • Adjusting workplace policies that affect people’s religious beliefs such as rules about uniforms or protective headgear.

Examples of accommodation in services include:

  • Allowing people with disabilities to bring their service animals into restaurants, stores, hotels and other buildings.
  • Making sure entrances and public washrooms are wheelchair accessible.
  • Allowing a student with a learning disability to bring a note taker into class and/or to tape record lectures.

Examples of accommodation in housing and lodging include:

  • Installing a ramp and widening a doorway to accommodate a tenant or guest in a wheelchair.
  • Providing signage in Braille to assist tenants and guests with visual impairments.
  • Installing a flashing fire alarm and providing access to TTY telephone service for guests who are hearing impaired.