Information on human rights issues and complaints

Your human rights are protected by provincial legislation and university regulations. Namely, as a student you are entitled to equal rights and opportunities without discrimination. Wherever you feel your right to be free from discrimination or harassment has not been respected during your studies at the University of Ottawa, the Student Rights Centre is here to help.

The following information aims to inform you of your rights as defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), link you to university regulations and give you more info on applicable definitions.


Enacted in 1962, the Code protects people in Ontario against discrimination.  The Code applies to the following social areas: membership in vocational associations and trade unions; contracts; employment; housing; goods, services and facilities (this last area applies to schools, colleges and universities).

There are seventeen grounds of discrimination:

  • Age;
  • Ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin;
  • Creed;
  • Disability (including mental health and addictions);
  • Family status, marital status (including single status);
  • Gender identity;
  • Gender expression;
  • Receipt of Public assistance (in housing only);
  • Record of offences (in employment only);
  • Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding);
  • Sexual orientation.

In Ontario, human rights legislation is remedial to the situation for the person or group discriminated against.  The Code grants civil remedies, not criminal penalties.

Ontario’s Human Rights System comprises:

Discrimination means making a distinction between certain individuals or groups based on a prohibited ground of discrimination as defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code. Whether intentional or unintentional, it is a differential treatment for which there is no reasonable justification, which imposes burdens, obligations or disadvantages to individuals or groups protected by the Code.

Discrimination always involves an action, and can take many forms; direct discrimination happens for example when an individual is expressly denied a service based on a protected ground (ex: ancestry, creed, disability…).  Systemic discrimination occurs when policies or established practices exclude, limit or restrict members of designated groups from opportunities. Indirect or “adverse effect” discrimination occurs when seemingly fair policies unintentionally have a discriminatory effect.

More descriptions and examples of discrimination are available on the Ontario Human Rights Commission website.

Harassment as defined by the Code is a form of discrimination based on protected grounds. It designates unwanted physical or verbal conduct reasonably understood as offensive or humiliating. This behaviour can create a negative or hostile living and learning environment (“poisoned environment”), which can interfere with your studies.

Harassment is generally a “course of conduct”; a pattern of behaviour involving more than one incident. A single incident may be categorized as harassment, though this is assessed on a case-by-case basis.