This article explains what discrimination is and what you can do if you are a victim of discrimination.
Discrimination means not having the same rights or access to the same services as other people because of a personal characteristic.
Here are some characteristics mentioned in Québec’s Charter of human rights and freedoms:
- race, colour, national or ethnic origin
- gender identity or expression
- sexual orientation
- civil status
- political beliefs
- social condition
Solutions for Victims
There are several options. Where to turn sometimes depends who you are complaining about:
1. Complaint Against a Quebec-Government Body or an Individual, Business or Organization in Quebec.
This could include, for example, schools, stores, restaurants, landlords and many employers in Quebec.
It also includes the provincial and municipal governments and government bodies such as provincial and local police forces.
You can file a complaint with Quebec's Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (human rights commission). The commission's responsibilities include making sure Quebec's Charter of human rights and freedoms is respected.
2. Complaint Against the Federal Government or an Organization Regulated by the Federal Government
(Organizations regulated by the federal government in Ottawa include banks, airlines and telecommunications companies.)
3. Other Options
- Try to settle the dispute using an alternative to legal action.
- Take legal action in the regular courts. An action in the courts can be expensive and take a long time.For more information, consult a lawyer. If you take action in these courts, you might be able to also rely the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Filing a Complaint With Quebec's Human Rights Commission
First, call the Commission and explain the situation. It will let you know if they can look into your complaint. There are no fees for filing a complaint.
Be prepared to give this information:
- important dates
- names and contact information of any witnesses
- facts, actions, comments or other signs that you think show discrimination
- other solutions you have tried
If the Commission decides it can investigate the complaint, your complaint goes to the next step (see below).
Next Steps at the Commission
The Commission will contact the person filing the complaint to get all necessary information. It will also contact the person who is the target of the complaint.
The Commission will ask both sides if they are willing to try to settle the issue using mediation or arbitration.
In mediation, a neutral third person tries to help both sides come to an agreement. In arbitration, the arbitrator acts as a kind of judge and makes a final decision.
Both parties must agree to use mediation or arbitration.
If both sides refuse, or if the mediation is not successful, the complaint goes to an investigator.
Commission Investigation and Decision
An investigator collects evidence about the complaint, including statements from people and documents.
The investigator submits a report to a complaints committee. The committee then makes recommendations. The recommendations can be to either
- close the file if there is not enough evidence
- suggest a specific action by the person guilty of discrimination: give back a job to an employee, pay money, attend an anti-discrimination awareness program, etc.
Important! The human rights commission can't force someone to follow its recommendations. If the recommendations are not followed, the Commission can take the case to a special court called the Human Rights Tribunal (or to another court) to get a decision that must be respected.
If the Commission decides not to bring the case to the Tribunal, the person with a complaint can bring it there.
The Human Rights Tribunal
When it brings a case to the Tribunal on behalf of someone who has made a complaint, the Commission pays the cost and manages the case.
The Tribunal can make various kinds of decisions. Here are examples:
- order someone to pay money
- order a landlord to rent an apartment to a person refused as a tenant
- order an employer to take back an employee
Decisions of the Tribunal must be respected.
To learn more about how a case at the Tribunal is heard, see our article on the topic.
No Retaliation Allowed
No one is allowed to retaliate against someone for filing a human rights complaint.
If someone does this, the person filing the complaint can speak to the human rights commission handling the complaint to see what can be done.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.