What is discrimination?

Discrimination is what is being alleged in any successful human rights complaint.

Discrimination, for the purposes of the Yukon Human Rights Act, occurs when a person or group is treated unfavourably because of a protected personal characteristic. The Act lists all the personal characteristics that are protected from discrimination, which are referred to as protected grounds. They are:

  • Ancestry, including colour or race
  • National origin
  • Ethnic or linguistic background or origin
  • Religion or Creed, or religious belief, religious association, or religious activity
  • Age
  • Sex, including pregnancy, and pregnancy related conditions
  • Gender identity or gender expression
  • Sexual orientation
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Criminal charges or criminal record
  • Political belief, political association, or political activity
  • Marital or family status
  • Source of income
  • Actual or presumed association with other individuals or groups whose identity or membership is determined by any of the above

Everyone has the right to be free from discrimination based on any of these grounds, so long as the treatment in question happened in an area protected by the Yukon Human Rights Act. The areas are:

  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Services, goods, and facilities
  • Membership in in a union or occupational, trade, or professional association
  • Contracts

In order for a Complainant to successfully claim that they have been discriminated against, they will need to establish that their protected characteristic was a factor in why they were treated unfavourably. Although the individual or organization named in a complaint does not need to intend to discriminate against a Complainant, the Complainant will be unable to establish their claim if they are unable to prove a sufficient link between the unfavourable treatment and their protected characteristic.

Examples of direct discrimination include situations like losing your job, being denied a promotion, being evicted from your apartment, or being denied a service. However, not all forms of discrimination are so clear. In fact, sometimes a policy that appears neutral on its face may still cause some people to be treated unfavourably. An example of this type of discrimination could be a workplace policy that imposes standard working hours that are not problematic for many employees, but conflict with religious or childcare obligations for others. This is known as “adverse effect discrimination.”

If you have any questions about the discrimination or human rights complaints, take a look at What is a Human Rights Complaint, or contact the Commission.