Removing Barriers Part 1 Legal Framework

The 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms was the first constitutional recognition of the right to equality in Canada. Since then, Canadian law has reinforced and built upon this recognition of the equality of people. For example:

  • the Official Languages Act (1988) provides equal opportunities for English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians to obtain employment and advancement in federal institutions;
  • the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1988) provides for the freedom of all Canadians to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage, and equal opportunity for Canadians of all origins to obtain employment and advancement in federal institutions;
  • the Employment Equity Act (1995) requires employers to identify and eliminate barriers to the employment of four designated groups: women, members of visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities; and
  • the Canadian Human Rights Act (1998) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.

In addition, selection and assessment for employment in the federal Public Service must be guided by merit. Standards governing the selection and assessment of candidates must be free from discrimination, and assessment methods must treat all candidates in a non-discriminatory manner, with accommodation provided so that each candidate is assessed according to his or her personal characteristics, rather than presumed group characteristics.

In short, Canadian law prohibits discrimination in employment practices on grounds such as race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion. As well, Canadian law requires that, for members of the four designated employment equity groups, barriers in employment be identified and removed, and that accommodations be made.

Appendix A provides more detailed information on the legal framework as it relates to fair assessment in a diverse workplace.

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