Navigating the Canadian Human Rights Act: Implications for Disability Claims

Canadian Human Rights Act: Implications for Disability Claims

Navigating the landscape of human rights can be daunting, especially when it involves the complexities of disability claims.

In Canada, this navigation is largely guided by the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA). The CHRA, with its vast provisions for persons with disabilities, ensures that all Canadians are treated with equality and respect, and it is a vital tool for advocacy. Understanding the act and its implications for disability claims is crucial for those seeking to leverage its protections.

This article will delve into the Act, examining its provisions and how it can be used to navigate disability claims.

What is the Canadian Human Rights Act?

The Canadian Human Rights Act is a federal law enacted in 1977 to protect individuals from discrimination based on specific prohibited grounds.

The CHRA applies across Canada but only to federally regulated activities. This includes the federal government and federal agencies, as well as private sector industries like banking, telecommunications, and transportation that cross provincial or international boundaries. The Act safeguards individuals from discrimination in areas such as employment and the provision of goods, services, facilities, and accommodation.

The fundamental principle of the CHRA is equality of opportunity, aligning with the Council of Canadians’ vision for a diverse and inclusive society.

It prohibits discrimination on various grounds, including race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, and disability.

What is the Canadian Human Rights Act for persons with disabilities?

For persons with disabilities, the CHRA is a crucial piece of legislation that protects them from discrimination.

It requires that all individuals be treated equally and without discrimination based on their disability, whether it’s physical, mental, or a learning disability. This requirement applies to all areas covered by the Act, including employment, the provision of goods and services, and accommodation.

The CHRA not only prohibits discrimination but also imposes a duty to accommodate persons with disabilities.

This means that employers, service providers, and others covered by the Act must take steps to ensure that barriers to participation are removed and that persons with disabilities are provided with equal opportunities to participate fully and equally in society.

What is disability and duty to accommodate as outlined in the human rights legislation?

In the context of the CHRA, a disability refers to any previous or existing mental or physical disability.

It includes a wide range of conditions, such as physical impairments, mental illness, and learning disabilities. The definition of disability is broad and inclusive, reflecting the understanding that disability is a complex and multifaceted experience that varies greatly from person to person.

The duty to accommodate refers to the obligation of employers, service providers, and other organizations to take steps to eliminate disadvantages to individuals, or groups of individuals, so they can benefit from and contribute equally in the workplace, housing, or when accessing services. The goal is to ensure that society is as inclusive and accessible as possible.

This obligation requires proactive identification and removal of barriers, as well as adjustments to policies or practices.

What are the 3 objectives of the disability policy in Canada?

Canada’s disability policy is designed to protect the rights and improve the lives of persons with disabilities. The policy is centered around three key objectives:

  1. Equal Opportunity: To ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same opportunities as all other Canadians to participate in activities that are an integral part of everyday life.
  2. Full Participation: To facilitate the integration of persons with disabilities into all aspects of Canadian society. This means removing barriers and making the physical and social environment more accessible.
  3. Economic Self-Sufficiency: To provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to gain and maintain employment, contributing to their economic self-sufficiency.

What is disability and accommodation as outlined in the Ontario human rights legislation?

The Ontario Human Rights Code provides protection for individuals with disabilities similar to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Disabilities, whether visible or invisible, and whether they are past, present, or perceived conditions, are protected. The duty to accommodate under Ontario legislation is essentially the same as under federal law.

Service providers, for example, should identify and remove barriers voluntarily instead of waiting to answer individual accommodation requests or complaints​7​​8​​9​​10​.

What are the implications of the CHRA for disability claims?

When it comes to disability claims, the CHRA plays a crucial role by providing legal recourse for individuals who experience discrimination due to their disability.

This can include situations where an individual is denied benefits, experiences unfair treatment, or is not provided with appropriate accommodation in the workplace or when accessing services.

How can the CHRA be used to navigate disability claims?

The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) provides a legal framework to navigate disability claims and seek protection against discrimination based on disability.

Individuals with disabilities can use the CHRA to enforce their rights and seek remedies for discriminatory practices. Here are some ways the CHRA can be used to navigate disability claims:

  1. Understanding rights and protections: The CHRA explicitly prohibits discrimination based on physical or mental disability in various areas, including employment, services, and facilities provided by the federal government, First Nations governments, and federally-regulated private companies. By familiarizing themselves with the CHRA, individuals can understand their rights and the protections afforded to them under the law.
  2. Filing a complaint: If an individual believes they have experienced discrimination based on disability, they can file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). The CHRC is responsible for investigating complaints and attempting to resolve them through mediation or other dispute resolution methods.
  3. Seeking remedies: The CHRA empowers the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) to hear cases related to discrimination based on disability. If the CHRC’s attempts at resolving the complaint are unsuccessful, the case may proceed to the CHRT, where the tribunal has the authority to award remedies such as compensation, reinstatement, and changes to policies or practices that led to the discrimination.
  4. Seeking legal representation: Individuals navigating disability claims under the CHRA may choose to seek legal representation to ensure their rights are effectively advocated for. Legal professionals experienced in human rights and disability law can provide guidance, support, and representation throughout the process.

What are some common issues with disability claims?

Disability claims under the CHRA can involve various challenges and issues. Some common issues individuals may face when pursuing disability claims include:

  1. Proving discrimination: Demonstrating that discrimination based on disability has occurred can be challenging, as it often involves proving intent or establishing a connection between the discriminatory action and the individual’s disability. This may require gathering evidence, including witness testimonies, documents, and other relevant information.
  2. Access to information: Individuals may encounter difficulties in accessing information about their rights and the process for filing a complaint under the CHRA. Limited availability of accessible resources or lack of awareness about available supports and services can hinder their ability to navigate the claims process effectively.
  3. Burden of proof: In some cases, the burden of proof may be placed on the individual alleging discrimination. This means they must provide sufficient evidence to support their claim, which can be challenging, especially for individuals who may face barriers such as limited resources or systemic disadvantages.
  4. Lengthy process: Navigating a disability claim under the CHRA can be a time-consuming process. The investigation, mediation, and adjudication stages may take a significant amount of time, potentially causing frustration and delays in resolving the issue.

How can the CHRA be used to resolve these issues?

The CHRA includes provisions aimed at addressing the issues individuals may encounter when pursuing disability claims. Here are some ways the CHRA can be used to resolve these issues:

  1. Accessible information: The CHRA promotes accessibility and inclusivity. It is important for the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) and other relevant authorities to provide accessible information about the CHRA and the complaint process in various formats, accommodating different communication needs and disabilities. This ensures individuals have access to the information necessary to navigate the claims process.
  2. Burden of proof: The CHRA recognizes that discrimination is often subtle and indirect. It allows for the consideration of circumstantial evidence and shifts the burden of proof to the respondent once a prima facie case of discrimination is established. This can alleviate some of the challenges faced by individuals in proving discrimination.
  3. Alternative dispute resolution: The CHRA encourages the use of alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, to resolve complaints. Mediation provides an opportunity for parties to engage in constructive dialogue and reach a mutually satisfactory resolution without going through a lengthy adjudication process. This can help expedite the resolution of disability claims.
  4. Legal remedies and enforcement: The CHRA empowers the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) to award remedies in cases of discrimination. The CHRT has the authority to order compensation for damages, reinstatement, and changes to policies or practices that led to discrimination. This ensures that individuals who have experienced discrimination based on disability can seek appropriate remedies and have their rights enforced.
  5. Public education and awareness: Increasing public education and awareness about disability rights and the provisions of the CHRA is crucial. It helps individuals with disabilities understand their rights, navigate the claims process more effectively, and encourages a proactive approach by service providers and employers to prevent discrimination. Public education initiatives can help address systemic barriers and promote a culture of inclusivity and accessibility.


The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) plays a vital role in protecting individuals with disabilities from discrimination and ensuring their rights to equality and inclusion.

By understanding the provisions of the CHRA, individuals can navigate disability claims, seek remedies for discrimination, and enforce their rights. While challenges may arise during the claims process, the CHRA provides mechanisms to address these issues, including accessible information, alternative dispute resolution, and legal remedies.

It is important to continue raising awareness about disability rights, promoting inclusivity, and advocating for the effective implementation of the CHRA to create a society that respects and values the rights of all individuals, regardless of their disabilities.

The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) serves as a crucial tool for navigating disability claims and seeking protection against discrimination. By understanding the provisions of the CHRA, individuals can assert their rights, file complaints, and seek remedies for disability discrimination.

With accessible information, support from legal professionals, and awareness of available resources, individuals can effectively navigate the claims process and work toward a society that upholds equality, inclusion, and the rights of individuals with disabilities.


Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC)
The official website of the CHRC offers information about the CHRA, complaint processes, and resources for individuals with disabilities.
Legal Aid
Legal Aid organizations across Canada may provide assistance and representation to individuals who face barriers in accessing legal services for disability claims.
Disability Advocacy Organizations
Various advocacy organizations, such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and other local disability rights groups, can offer guidance, resources, and support for individuals navigating disability claims.
Human Rights Clinics
Human rights clinics and legal clinics specializing in disability rights may provide legal advice, representation, and resources specifically tailored to disability-related issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What other legislation protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in Canada? In addition to the Canadian Human Rights Act, individuals with disabilities are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provincial and territorial human rights legislation, and international conventions such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  2. What is the duty to accommodate under the CHRA? The duty to accommodate is a legal obligation under the CHRA that requires employers, service providers, and others to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities, up to the point of undue hardship.
  3. How long does it take to resolve a disability claim under the CHRA? The duration of resolving a disability claim under the CHRA can vary depending on the complexity of the case, the availability of resources, and other factors. It is advisable to consult with legal professionals or the Canadian Human Rights Commission for more specific information regarding timelines.
  4. Can I receive compensation for discrimination under the CHRA? Yes, if discrimination based on disability is established, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has the authority to award compensation for damages, including financial loss, pain and suffering, and other relevant factors.
  1. What should I do if I believe I have experienced discrimination based on disability? If you believe you have experienced discrimination based on disability, you can take the following steps:
    • Document the details: Keep a record of the incidents, including dates, times, locations, individuals involved, and any supporting evidence.
    • Consult with a legal professional: Seek advice from a lawyer or legal clinic specializing in human rights or disability rights to understand your rights and options.
    • File a complaint: If you decide to pursue a complaint, you can file it with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) within the specified time limits.
    • Cooperate with the investigation: If your complaint proceeds to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT), cooperate fully with the investigation process.
    • Consider seeking legal representation: Depending on the complexity of your case, you may choose to seek legal representation to ensure your rights are effectively advocated for.
  2. What are some examples of disability accommodation under the CHRA? Accommodations under the CHRA can vary depending on the specific needs of individuals with disabilities. Examples of accommodation measures can include providing assistive devices, modifying work schedules, making physical modifications to buildings, implementing flexible policies, and providing accessible communication formats.
  3. Are there provincial or territorial human rights laws that protect individuals with disabilities? Yes, each province and territory in Canada has its own human rights legislation that protects individuals from discrimination, including discrimination based on disability. These laws may provide additional protections and remedies specific to their jurisdiction.
  4. Can I pursue both a complaint under the CHRA and a civil lawsuit for disability discrimination? In some cases, individuals may have the option to pursue both a complaint under the CHRA and a civil lawsuit for disability discrimination. However, it is advisable to consult with legal professionals to understand the implications, requirements, and potential remedies associated with each avenue.

Key Takeaways

The Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 protects Canadians from discrimination based on disability when employed by or receiving services from certain entities.
The Ontario Human Rights Code ensures that individuals with disabilities have the right to be free from discrimination in various social areas and experiences.
Disabilities are often “invisible” and episodic, with individuals experiencing periods of wellness and disability.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) aims to improve accessibility standards for Ontarians with disabilities by identifying and removing barriers.
Disability and the duty to accommodate refer to the obligation of employers and service providers to eliminate disadvantages and promote equal participation.
Disability policies in Canada aim to prevent barriers, create equal opportunities, and promote inclusivity.

It is important to note that the information provided is general in nature and should not be considered as legal advice. For specific advice related to your situation, it is recommended to consult with a lawyer or legal professional familiar with disability and human rights law.