Political beliefs the next protected ground?

Recent judgment leaves door open on question of whether political opinion is a creed
By Thomas Gorsky
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 01/09/2013

It is often said discrimination is illegal, but in reality this is too simplistic a proposition. Human rights legislation, such as the Ontario Human Rights Code, does not make discrimination per se illegal. Rather, it prohibits defined categories of discrimination (known as prohibited grounds). Many are familiar with some of the prohibited grounds of discrimination such as disability and gender. Other grounds are less well known, with one of the least familiar being “creed.”

The meaning of creed was reviewed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in Jazairi v. Ontario (Human Rights Commission), where a university professor who was an Arab Muslim claimed he was denied a promotion because of his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The court found discrimination against an employee on the grounds of the mere expression of a political opinion does not constitute a prohibited ground of discrimination under the code.

“Even if it can be said that political opinion may constitute creed, there is no evidence that the applicant's views amount to a creed. I am not prepared to find that the applicant's political views, no doubt shared by others in society, amount to a creed merely because the applicant is from Iraq. On the facts in this case, the applicant's submission that political and religious commitments may be so aligned as to constitute ‘creed’ is not established. Whether a political perspective, such as communism, that is made up of a recognizable cohesive belief system or structure may constitute a ‘creed’ is not at issue and is not being determined,” said the court