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The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) is one of the most important pieces of legislation in Ontario. This guide is designed to help educators discuss with students the rights and responsibilities the Code covers. It explains human rights protections and identifies who is responsible for protecting everyone's rights.

Human rights legislation deals with discrimination in particular areas of our lives. Discrimination results from intentional and unintentional prejudicestereotyping and misuse of power. The Code provides a legal mechanism to prevent or stop discrimination, and to offer remedies when discrimination happens.

This package contains information and activities to help students learn the difference between permissible behaviours and illegal behaviours.

About this guide

This educational resource package introduces students to the Code and the roles of the three agencies that make up Ontario’s human rights system. It includes information on Code grounds and on the parts of society – called social areas – where discrimination is against the law in Ontario. It also includes activities to help you teach these concepts. You can use the activities in the order they appear, or you can choose individual exercises based on your class needs.

Teaching human rights in Ontario can be used by secondary school teachers for law, history and civics courses and cooperative education programs. It can also be used in other high school courses, such as media studies, with few or no changes needed.

If you are teaching Grade 8 or 9, review the materials to make sure they are appropriate for your younger students. The guide can also help if you are teaching adult “English as a Second Language” classes.

Learning outcomes

Completing the activities in this package will help students to:

  • Increase their awareness of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the work of the three agencies that make up Ontario’s human rights system: the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre
  • Identify the grounds and social areas the Code covers
  • Explain what discrimination is
  • Explain how the Code protects individuals and groups from discrimination and harassment
  • Know their rights and responsibilities under the law, how to protect those rights and how to help others who experience discrimination or harassment.

A note about language

While this guide tries to use as clear language as possible, some key human rights terms and phrases are important for interpreting and understanding the Code. Definitions are included in the fact sheets (in the students’ handouts) and the glossary in the teachers’ reference section.

Real-life cases

Most situations used in this resource are based on real-life cases at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (formerly called Boards of Inquiry) and/or the courts. For more information on these cases, see Case study references.

Students’ handouts and teachers’ references

The Students' handouts section at the end of this package includes a human rights quiz, five fact sheets and 12 case studies. You will find instructions and extra information for using these materials, and a glossary, in the Teachers’ references section.

The OHRC allows and encourages you to reproduce all materials for classroom use.

Classroom activities

The teachers’ package includes instructions and additional background information about each topic. No timelines are given for the activities – you can set aside time for each part as you see fit.

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