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Vulnerable groups protected by human rights legislation are more likely to experience low social and economic status or condition.[218] Poverty is linked inextricably with inequality, particularly for women (especially lone mothers and elderly women), Aboriginal persons, racialized groups and persons with disabilities. Housing is one of the primary social areas in which an individual’s socio-economic condition may contribute to the treatment he or she experiences. In order to properly address human rights issues that arise in housing, it is impossible to ignore the role that poverty may play in exacerbating an individual’s experience of discrimination.

While the ground of “receipt of public assistance” enables the Commission to address some forms of discrimination based on a person’s social and economic condition in the area of housing, it fails to cover broader issues of poverty. Those living in poverty who are not in receipt of public assistance, for example, the working poor, homeless persons, and those who are otherwise not eligible for public assistance, are not entitled to the protection of the Code in housing. Further, the current language of the Code does not allow the Commission to easily address systemic issues of poverty. For example, the Code provides limited opportunity to address, through complaints of discrimination, the situation of a person who is living in poverty because social assistance benefits are too low, and who not have adequate food or housing.

Homelessness is one of the most extreme manifestations of low social and economic status. Those who are homeless are lacking “many of the things that keep people healthy like income, social status, support networks, education, a healthy environment for children, jobs, [and] health services...”[219] As a result, homeless people frequently find themselves at the outermost margins of society.

The homelessness disaster in Ontario’s cities has been well documented. In addition to extensive work conducted by the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee and the City of Toronto’s annual report cards on homelessness, the extensive Golden Report on Homelessness[220] was released in January 1999.

An excerpt from the Golden Report describes the full extent of the problem:

Homelessness[221] has reached unprecedented levels in Toronto, as well as in other cities across the country. In Toronto, there are far too many homeless people and their numbers are increasing. More people are living on the streets and using shelters, and pressure on drop-in centres, food banks, and other emergency services is constantly increasing. Evictions are on the rise, and waiting lists for social and supportive housing continue to get longer.[222]

Homelessness is not confined to Toronto.[223] Other reports have documented increased rates of homelessness in other Ontario cities including Peterborough, Kitchener, Sudbury, Brampton, London, Windsor, Ottawa, Hamilton, and even smaller communities, such as Parry Sound.[224]

Those living in a state of homelessness are highly vulnerable to ill health and the spread of disease. Due to the unpredictability and instability of their day-to-day circumstances, many will find it very difficult to maintain medication or treatment programs. Other hazards include harassment, abuse, extreme stress, malnutrition, dehydration, sleep deprivation, and inclement, sometimes life-threatening, weather.

Some Facts About Homelessness in Toronto:[225]

  • A “typical” homeless person is no longer a single, alcoholic, adult male. Youth under 18 and families with children are now the fastest-growing groups in the homeless and at-risk populations. In 1996, in Toronto, families accounted for 46 percent of the people using hostels and 5,300 children were homeless.
  • Between 30 – 35 percent of homeless people suffer from mental illness. The estimates are higher for some population groups: for example, 75 percent of homeless lone women suffer from mental illness.
  • At least 47 percent of hostel users come from outside Toronto.

The Golden Report gives an overview of some of the causes of homelessness:

  • Increased poverty – poverty has increased due to public policy changes such as restrictions on Employment Insurance eligibility and cuts to public assistance
  • A lack of affordable housing
  • Deinstitutionalization and lack of discharge planning - the lack of adequate community support programs has resulted in increased numbers of people with mental illness and addictions who are discharged from hospitals and jails being homeless
  • Social factors – domestic violence and physical and sexual abuse, for example, have increased the rates of homelessness[226]

It is clear that one’s social and economic condition has a direct bearing on the likelihood of one becoming homeless. For example, those living in poverty are at a greater risk of not being able to secure affordable housing or of not being able to make the rent payments for the housing that they do have.

Discrimination also contributes to homelessness. Housing providers continue to screen out prospective tenants on the basis of prohibited Code grounds, including the receipt of public assistance, and on the basis of stereotypes about poverty and the poor. This is often done through the use of rigid selection criteria and rent-to-income ratios, along with requests for exorbitant rent deposits and guarantors.

Once an individual or a family becomes homeless, the potential for discrimination increases further. As mentioned in the section dealing with the ground of family status, the Golden Report states “it is not uncommon for families that are staying in shelters or in motels, families with good credit histories and good references, to be refused an apartment by many different landlords. Discrimination can make the rental housing market impenetrable for those most in need of housing.”[227] It is extremely difficult for one who has become homeless to re-enter “mainstream” society. J. David Hulchanski, a professor in University of Toronto’s Faculty of Social Work and Director of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies at the University of Toronto, has noted:

The homeless are people who have passed from one ‘status slot’ in society to a situation that has no status. The discrimination and unequal treatment is as complete as it possibly can be. They cannot access or enjoy any of the rights or opportunities of people who are adequately housed. In the ordinary course of day-to-day life, they are in a state of ‘social abeyance.’ They are dependent on emergency services for their basic survival. These services are not provided in a comprehensive and systematic fashion so as to help people ‘exit’ their social abeyance as quickly as possible. Rather, the emergency services have emerged on a haphazard basis and have proven to be inadequate by many forms of evaluation and research.[228]

According to the Golden Report, the following groups are at high risk of being or becoming homeless: families with children, youth, abused women, Aboriginal people, and immigrants and refugees.[229]

The Golden Report made numerous recommendations for combating homelessness, including:

  • appointment of a facilitator for action on homelessness
  • establishment of a 24-hour homelessness services information system
  • creation of a sufficient new supply of supportive and low-cost housing
  • treatment programs made available specifically for young parents with substance abuse problems
  • dedicated and supported housing for young homeless mothers
  • establishment of partnerships between youth shelters and landlords
  • additional supportive housing units for abused women and their children
  • provision of emergency shelter for immigrants and refugees
  • an increase in the shelter component maximum for social assistance so that it equals 85 percent of median market rent
  • a shelter allowance program that would reduce the share of income that low-income people spend on housing to between 35 and 40 percent of income
  • the establishment and implementation of protocols for all persons with no fixed address who are discharged from institutions
  • establishment of a harm-reduction facility on a pilot basis to accommodate up to 30 homeless people who cannot participate in programs that require total abstinence
  • establishment of a high-support residential program for people with severe mental illness on site at a hospital
  • creation of an overall provincial policy on supportive housing which ensures that definitions of special need and eligibility for supportive housing are broad enough to include "hard to house" homeless people

These recommendations appear to be comprehensive, thoughtful and practical. Yet, nearly eight years later, many of them have not been implemented and the problem of homelessness in Ontario’s cities shows no signs of abating.

International Commitments

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948, proclaimed the inviolability of social and economic rights. Social and economic rights contained in the Declaration include the right to own property[230], the right to social security and to the realization of social and economic rights "indispensable for [a person's] dignity and the free development of his [or her] personality"[231], rights with respect to employment[232] and rights with respect to education.[233] Article 25 of the Declaration recognizes a right to a certain standard of living, including a right to housing:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. [emphasis added]

Article 2 of the Declaration states that everyone is entitled to these rights without distinction of any kind based on grounds such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The moral statements expressed in the Declaration were given legal force through two covenants: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The ICESCR is one of the most influential and comprehensive international documents in the area of social and economic rights. Article 11 of the ICESCR states:

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent. [emphasis added]

The General Comment on the Right to Adequate Housing by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[234] reiterates that the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing must not be subject to any form of discrimination. As well, it clarifies that the right is to adequate housing, including considerations of security of tenure, accessibility, habitability, and affordability, among others. Financial costs associated with housing should not be at a level where the attainment and satisfaction of other basic needs are compromised or threatened.

In addition, there are a series of international conventions, declarations and agreements that address economic, social and cultural rights. These instruments have further refined international legal norms relating to a wide range of socio-economic issues. [235]

Protection of economic, social and cultural rights has been deemed necessary as the right to live a dignified life can never be attained unless all basic necessities of life - work, food, housing, health care, education and culture - are adequately and equitably available to everyone.

Canada became a State party to the ICESCR in 1976. The ICESCR is a legally binding instrument with States parties accepting the responsibility to implement and maintain the rights guaranteed therein. Article 28 provides that the Covenant's provisions "shall extend to all parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions." Accordingly, the ICESCR is binding on the federal government and each of the provinces and territories, and rights that are within provincial competence are the obligation of the provincial and territorial governments. Before ratification of both the ICESCR and the ICCPR, there was extensive consultation between the federal government and the provinces. After a 1975 Federal-Provincial Ministerial Conference on Human Rights, all the provinces gave their consent to Canada's ratification of both covenants.

Article 2 describes the nature of the legal obligations under the ICESCR and the manner in which States parties should approach implementation of the substantive rights. States parties are required to take steps to the maximum of their available resources with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of ICESCR rights by all appropriate means. The Limburg Principles on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights state that legislative measures alone are not sufficient: administrative, judicial, policy, economic, social and educational measures will be required by governments to ensure ICESCR rights.[236]

It is clear that for many Canadians, these international and domestic rights are an unrealized promise. Many continue to struggle in the rental housing market, and may find themselves in housing that is neither affordable nor adequate, or, in extreme cases, may find themselves without housing of any kind. One’s housing situation is generally a good indicator of one’s overall social and economic condition.

On several occasions, the United Nations has expressed significant concern about Canada’s record in implementing social and economic rights.[237] Most recently, in May 2006, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which oversees the ICESCR, issued its review of Canada’s compliance with the Covenant. The Committee was critical of fact that 11.2% of Canada’s population still lived in poverty in 2004, particularly in light of Canada’s economic wealth and resources. The Committee noted with concern that poverty rates remain very high among disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups such as Aboriginal persons, African Canadians, immigrants, persons with disabilities, youth, low-income women and single mothers. [238]

The Committee also noted with concern the “insufficiency of minimum wage and social assistance to ensure the realization of the right to an adequate standard of living”.[239] The Committee recommended that “the State party assess the extent to which poverty is a discrimination issue in Canada, and ensure that measures and programmes do not have a negative impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, especially for disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups.”[240]

As well, concern has been expressed about the disproportionate number of women, especially lone mothers, living in poverty and the effect that one’s socio-economic condition has on one’s ability to access adequate housing; some reports have directly attributed blame to cuts in social funding.[241]

These strong words from the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were echoed in April of 1999, by the Human Rights Committee, the body that oversees the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That Committee issued a report on Canada’s compliance under the Civil and Political Covenant that stressed the interdependence between civil and political rights and economic and social rights. The Committee observed that “homelessness has led to serious health problems and even to death.”[242]

Canada has also been subjected to criticism in the international context for the failure of its courts to provide remedies for violations of social and economic rights. Judicial and legislative reluctance to address social and economic issues as rights has real consequences for vulnerable groups, and has contributed to an increased focus on the role of human rights commissions and human rights legislation in protecting these rights.

OHRC Advancement of Housing Protections Through Social and Economic Rights

It has long been argued that human rights commissions have an obligation to become more involved in protecting and promoting economic and social rights and in implementing international treaties to which Canada is a party, such as the ICESCR.

The addition of “social condition” as a ground to human rights legislation has been proposed as one option for better dealing with economic inequality in Canada, and for more effectively addressing broader human rights issues related to housing.[243] Section 10 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms has provided for equal recognition and exercise of rights without discrimination on the basis of social condition since it came into force in 1976. Although not defined in the legislation, the courts have interpreted the ground to include a person’s standing in society as based on occupation, income, level of education or family background, and to include perceptions based on one or more of these factors.[244]

In the past several years there has been strong support among human rights organizations[245] and other bodies, among them the Canadian Senate[246] and the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel,[247] for adding “social condition” to other human rights legislation in Canada. This has resulted in the inclusion of “social condition” in human rights legislation in two additional jurisdictions: the Northwest Territories in 2002, and New Brunswick in 2005.[248] These two pieces of legislation have provided statutory definitions similar to the judicial interpretation of the ground in Quebec, addressing treatment based on a person’s association with a socially identifiable group based on income, occupation, and/or education.[249]

Human rights legislation in other provinces and territories also provides some limited protection relating to social and economic rights. Like Ontario, Saskatchewan protects against discrimination on the basis of “receipt of social assistance”, but extends the protection beyond housing accommodation to a broader number of areas.[250] Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, and the Yukon provide some wider protections in prohibiting discrimination based on “source of income”,[251] although in British Columbia this protection is only extended in tenancy. “Source of income” is broader than “receipt of public assistance”, which does not protect the working poor or those who may be discriminated against because of another source of income such as spousal support or receipt of pension benefits. However, none of these grounds offer broad protections relating to other determinants of socio-economic status.

The addition of “social condition” as a ground in the Ontario Code has the potential to provide greater rights to freedom from discrimination in a range of ways. For example, the ground may encompass sources of income including and beyond receipt of public assistance, such as retirement incomes, or even a lack of formal income. In addition, adding the ground could provide a means for the Ontario Human Rights Commission to address more directly prejudice relating to poverty, and to acknowledge the systemic disadvantage which social condition and poverty can bring. It is broader than the more limited protections relating to source of income or receipt of public assistance, in that it addresses socio-economic status which can be based on not just on the source and level of income but also on occupation, income, education and family background. It would also have the potential to apply across social areas. Further, it would provide a more effective avenue for the Commission to challenge laws and practices that negatively categorize and stereotype those living in poverty; it would permit the Commission to deal more effectively with issues related to homelessness; and, it would be a means for the Commission and the province to better comply with some of Canada’s international obligations.

However, even in the absence of “social condition” as a specific ground in the Code, there may be other ways for the Commission to address issues relating to social and economic rights broadly and housing rights in particular.

The preamble to the Code makes explicit reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as proclaimed by the United Nations. Many have argued that, as a result, international law has been incorporated into the Code. Thus, it is argued, the Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario could cite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a direct source of rights.[252]

In the alternative, international law can be used interpretively. Under this approach, international law does not constitute a direct source of rights, but informs the interpretation of various provisions of the Code.

The Supreme Court of Canada has made important statements that highlight the relevance of international human rights law in domestic human rights systems. For example, the Court has affirmed that Canadian law should provide at least as much protection as international human rights law. International law, according to the Court, helps give meaning and content to Canadian law. As Madame Justice L’Heureux-Dubé stated in Baker v. Canada, one of the Court’s leading cases on the relationship of international law to Canadian law:

[T]he values reflected in international human rights law may help inform the contextual approach to statutory interpretation and judicial review... [T]he legislature is presumed to respect the values and principles enshrined in international law, both customary and conventional. These constitute a part of the legal context in which legislation is enacted and read. In so far as possible, therefore, interpretations that reflect these values and principles are preferred.[253]

Thus, the Supreme Court has affirmed that administrative decision-makers should listen to international bodies and take Canada’s international commitments seriously. Since human rights legislation in Canada has a quasi-constitutional status, international law has a special relationship to human rights codes. The Commission should, therefore, look to international law to expand current understandings of the Code to include economic, social and cultural rights within its mandate. As the Universal Declaration reminds us, economic, social and cultural rights go to the core of dignity and equality.

To date, however, there continues to be resistance by courts and tribunals in Canada to adopting these approaches. This may be because these arguments are still not commonly made by parties and the international jurisprudence is still relatively unfamiliar to many Canadian decision-makers.

Human rights commissions can do much to raise broader public awareness of social and economic rights through policy development and public education initiatives. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has already taken some steps towards this objective. In February 2000, in partnership with the Canadian Human Rights Foundation, the Commission held a policy dialogue event which brought together human rights agencies from across Canada, provincial government representatives, NGOs, academics and a senior representative from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Attendees analyzed the ways in which commissions, civil society and government can work together to identify issues, developments and challenges in the field of human rights, including how social and economic rights may be better protected and advanced.[254] Later the same year, the Commission held a two-day legal conference to explore how international obligations can be incorporated into the work of Canadian human rights commissions, and to facilitate the development of a litigation strategy for economic, social and cultural rights violations under the Ontario Code.

The Commission supported the drafting and adoption of two social and economic rights resolutions by the Canadian Association of Human Rights Agencies (“CASHRA”) at its 2001 Annual General Meeting. The first resolution reiterated the international obligations regarding economic, social and cultural rights, and requested that federal, provincial, and territorial governments include the ground of social condition in their human rights legislation. The second resolution committed CASHRA members to use the ICESCR as an interpretive tool in enforcement and promotion, and to give full attention to these rights in the exercise of all aspect of their mandates.[255]

The Commission has also released a research paper, produced by its policy and education branch, entitled Human Rights Commissions and Economic and Social Rights.[256] This document was shared with CASHRA and other organizations, and posted on the Commission’s website. In addition, former Chief Commissioner Keith Norton appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights to discuss the machinery of government dealing with Canada’s international and national human rights obligations, in particular the role of human rights commissions. The Commission has, therefore, taken steps to address social and economic rights in a range of ways over the past several years, and will continue to make efforts to meet the challenges of promotion and implementation of these rights, both in general, and in relation to housing issues specifically.

Legislatures, the judiciary, advocacy groups and NGOs also have key roles to play in implementing social and economic rights, in Canada and internationally, and can work in cooperation with human rights institutions in enforcing, monitoring, and promoting these rights.

[218] The connection between membership in a group identified under the Code and the likelihood of being low income has been recognized by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in several decisions as well as by the Courts. Therefore, measures that disadvantage those who are low-income are likely to disproportionately disadvantage members of Code-identified groups.
[219] Chisholm, supra note 1 at 26.
[220] Report of the Mayor’s Homelessness Action Task Force, supra note 19.
[221] The Golden Report defines “homeless people” as “those who are ‘visible’ on the streets or staying in hostels, the ‘hidden’ homeless who live in illegal or temporary accommodation, and those at imminent risk of becoming homeless.” Ibid. at iii.
[222] Ibid.
[223] However, homelessness in Toronto is particularly severe, with some reports claiming that, per capita, there are more homeless people in Toronto than in New York City and other major U.S. cities: “Once population differences are taken into account, the percentage of people in Toronto using shelters is actually 15.8 per cent higher than in New York.” For more detail, see Shapcott, supra note 10 at 7.
[224] Ibid. at 2.
[225] Information taken from the Report of the Mayor’s Homelessness Action Task Force, supra note 19 at iv.
[226] Ibid. at v.
[227] Ibid. at chapter 4.5.
[228] J.D. Hulchanski, “People Without Housing: Homelessness is a Human Rights Violation” (2000) 15(1) Speaking About Rights (Canadian Human Rights Foundation, online:<> (date accessed: October 19, 2006). Professor Hulchanski specializes in housing policy, social welfare, community development and human rights.
[229] Report of the Mayor’s Homelessness Action Task Force, supra note 19.
[230] See Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, supra note 74.
[231] Ibid. Article 22.
[232] Ibid. Article 23.
[233] Ibid. Article 26.
[234]Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment 4: The Right to Adequate Housing, 13 December 1991, Article 11(1).
[235] In 1995, the United Nations estimated that there were no fewer than 81 formal agreements which address such issues as poverty eradication, employment generation and social integration; J.W. Foster, "Meeting the Challenges: Renewing the Progress of Economic and Social Rights" (1998) 47 U.N.B.L.J. 197 at 197.
[236] As there is no complaint procedure under the ICESCR, the primary mechanism for its enforcement is the state reporting process. Pursuant to Articles 16 and 17, States parties undertake to submit periodic reports to the ICESCR Committee on the programmes and laws they have adopted and the progress made in protecting Covenant rights. The U.N. has promulgated guidelines for the preparation of reports.
[237] For example, Concluding Observations issued by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1998 expressed serious concern about the state of realization of economic and social rights in such a wealthy country as Canada. The more recent 2006 Concluding Observations, reiterate that most of the 1993 and 1998 recommendations have not been implemented: Canada United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant (Concluding Observations – Canada), 10 December 1998, E/C.12/1/Add.31 and United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant (Concluding Observations – Canada), 19 May 2006, E/C.12/CAN/CO/4, E/C.12/CAN/CO/5 [hereinafter 2006 Concluding Observations.
[238] The Committee identified a range of concerns, such as Canada’s response to homelessness, a shortage of affordable housing, the insufficiency of minimum wage and social assistance rates, increasing poverty rates among Code protected groups, disparities between Aboriginal and African-Canadian people and the rest of the population with respect to realization of ICESCR rights, cuts to social programs, and the discriminatory impact of such cutbacks on certain disadvantaged groups and the significant barriers to enforcing ICESCR rights under domestic law. For more information, see the 2006 Concluding Observations.
[241] See for example, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Concluding Observations on Report of Canada Concerning the Rights Covered by Articles 10 to 15 of the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights, UN doc. E/C.12/1993/19; 20 CHRR C/1. See also recent media coverage such as “Canada’s Poor Face ‘Emergency”: UN” The Toronto Star (May 23, 2006), which reported that the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights again criticized Canada in its 2006 Annual Report for its inaccessible employment insurance program, its meagre minimum wages, and the fact that it has let homelessness and inadequate housing amount to a ‘national emergency.’
[242] Human Rights Committee, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant, 7 April 1999, CCPR/C/79/Add.105.
[243] However, it should be noted that a human rights commission does not have control over the content of its enabling legislation and must rely on the provincial government in question to make amendments through the legislative process.
[244] Québec (Comm. des droits de la personne) v. Gauthier, supra note 199.
[245] For example, see Canadian Human Rights Commission, Annual Report 1997 (Ottawa: Canadian Human Rights Commission, 1997). In addition, in 2001, the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) adopted a resolution, which was fully supported by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, recommending the addition of social condition as a ground of discrimination, and communicated this resolution to all provincial and territorial governments and to the federal government. Human rights reform proposals in Saskatchewan and British Columbia have indicated strong support for inclusion of social condition in their human rights legislation; A.W. Mackay, T. Piper & N. Kim, Social Condition as a Prohibited Ground of Discrimination Under the Canadian Human Rights Act (Canadian Human Rights Act Review, 2000).
[246] In 1998, Senator Erminie Cohen introduced Bill S-11 which would have added social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Bill passed unanimously through the Senate and, on October 19, 1998, received first reading in the House of Commons. On April 8, 1999 Justice Minister Anne McLellan announced the creation of the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel to consider, among other things, the addition of “social condition” to that Act. Five days later, Bill S-11 was defeated on second reading.
[247] Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel, Promoting Equality: A New Vision (Ottawa: Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel under the authority of the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada, 2000) (Chair: Gerard La Forest).
[248] New Brunswick’s legislation was amended effective January 21, 2005, and Northwest Territories included the ground in their Human Rights Act, S.N.W.T. 2002, c.18.
[249] The statutory definitions further clarify that this “socially identifiable group” must be one “that suffers from social or economic disadvantage”. Newfoundland’s human rights statute incorporates the term "social origin" as a protected ground, which relates more to a person’s birth status than to his or her current situation.
[250] Coverage extends to contracts, education, employment, housing, professional trades and associations, public services (restaurants, stores, hotels, government services, etc.), publications, purchase of property, occupations and trade unions.
[251] Nunavut and British Columbia specify “lawful source of income”.
[252] See for example, Reem Bahdi, “A Modest Proposal: Using International Law and the Ontario Human Rights Code Against Child Poverty” in Conference Proceedings Ontario Human Rights Commission, Conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (December 2000) at page 88-89.
[253] Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1999] 2 S.C.R 817 at paras. 70-71 citing R. Sullivan, Driedger on the Construction of Statutes (3rd ed. 1994), at p. 330.
[254] The summary of proceedings, Human Rights Commissions: Future Directions, is available on the OHRC website, at
[255] The text of the resolutions can be found on the OHRC website.
[256] This document, from September 2001, is available on the publications page of the OHRC website, at


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