Personal Characteristics Protected in the BC Human Rights Code

The Human Rights Code forbids discrimination based only on certain personal characteristics. Sometimes these are called “protected characteristics” or “grounds of discrimination”.

The personal characteristics may be someone’s actual characteristic or they may be how they are seen.

For example: It is discrimination to evict a person because they are of First Nations ancestry or because the landlord believes they are of First Nations ancestry.

These are the characteristics protected in the Code:

Age

Age means 19 years or more. It does not apply to purchase of property.

The Code allows some differential treatment based on age, such as seniority schemes, certain employment benefit plans, and insurance premiums or benefits. Distinctions based on age are not discrimination if permitted or required by legislation or regulation. The Code also allows residential buildings to be reserved for persons 55 and older.

Ancestry

Ancestry includes where a person’s family is from. Examples include Aboriginal, Cree, Bosnian, Filipino or Persian ancestry. See also “Race, colour, ancestry, and place of origin”.

Colour

Colour refers to a person’s colour. See also “Race, colour, ancestry, and place of origin”.

Criminal Conviction

Criminal conviction includes being charged with or convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code or another law. It is only protected in employment and membership in a union or occupational association. The Code does not prohibit discrimination if the criminal conviction is related to a person’s employment or intended employment.

Family Status

Family status includes being related to another person by blood, marriage or adoption. It includes family type (for example, a single parent family) and who is in your family. It does not apply to purchase of property. Examples of possible discrimination:

Not renting to a person because they have children

Denying a service because the shop owner dislikes the shopper’s father

Hiring a family member who is no more qualified than other applicants

Family care obligations may be protected where there is a serious interference with a substantial parental or family duty.

For example, an employer changes someone’s hours of work, making it impossible for them to provide care for their children

Gender Expression

Gender expression is how a person presents their gender. This can include behaviour and appearance, including dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice. This can also include name and pronoun, such as he, she or they. How a person presents their gender may not necessarily reflect their gender identity.

Gender Identity

Gender identity is a person’s sense of themselves as male, female, both, in between or neither. It includes people who identify as transgender. Gender identity may be different or the same as the sex a person is assigned at birth.

Marital Status

Marital status includes being married, single, widowed, divorced, separated or living common-law. It includes who your spouse is (for example, you are refused a service because of who your wife is).

Mental Disability

Mental disability includes mental conditions that affect or are seen as affecting a person’s abilities.

For example, it is discrimination to fire an employee based on a concern that they are at risk of developing a disability that might affect their abilities.

Mental disability includes such conditions as a learning disorder, developmental disability, or illness such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Physical Disability

Physical disability includes physical conditions that affect or are seen as affecting a person’s abilities.

For example, it is discrimination to fire an employee based on a concern that they are at risk of developing a disability that might affect their abilities.

Physical disability includes conditions that impair a person’s ability to carry out the normal functions of life. It includes addiction, amputation, asthma, acne, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, high blood pressure, hypertension, obesity and impairments to hearing, speech, vision and mobility. It does not include short-lived conditions such as a cold.

Place of Origin

Place of origin includes the fact of being born in a particular country or group of countries. See also “Race, ancestry, colour, and place of origin”.

Political Belief

Political belief includes support of a political party or group that advocates political change, and beliefs about the organization and governance of communities. It includes advocacy for a change to legislation. It is only protected in employment, employment advertisements, and membership in a union or occupational association.

Race

Race includes socio-cultural or ethnic groups such as First Nations, M├ętis, Chinese or South Asian. See also “Race, ancestry, colour, and place of origin”.

Race, ancestry, colour, and place of origin

Race, ancestry, colour and place of origin may be closely connected. Some or all of these grounds may be combined to define a person or group’s ethnic identity. These grounds do not have a precise definition but are meant to capture the negative perceptions that may be associated with them and result in discrimination.

For example, a group of Latin American workers may share characteristics relating to race, ancestry, colour and place of origin.

Religion

Religion includes adherence to the practices of a particular faith or genuinely held religious beliefs, and not having religious beliefs.

Sex

Sex includes being a man, woman, inter-sexed or transgender. It also includes pregnancy, breast-feeding and sexual harassment.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation includes being heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Source of Income

Source of income refers to legal sources of income. It is only protected in the area of tenancy. For example, it includes when a person receives:

  • income assistance
  • disability pension benefits
  • rent subsidies