According to the Canadian Human Rights Act, a disability is a physical or mental condition that is permanent, ongoing, episodic or of some persistence, and is a substantial or significant limit on an individual’s ability to carry out some of life’s important functions or activities, such as employment. Disabilities include visible disabilities, such as the need for a wheelchair, and invisible disabilities, such as cognitive, behavioural or learning disabilities, and mental health issues.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a part of the Canadian Constitution. Section 15 of the Charter makes it clear that every individual in Canada – regardless of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, age or physical or mental disability – is to be considered equal. Programs to improve employment opportunities for people with mental or physical disabilities may be protected under subsection 15(2).
The Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 protects Canadians from discrimination when they are employed by or receive services from:
- Federal government
- First Nations governments
- Private companies that are regulated by the federal government like banks, trucking companies, broadcasters and telecommunications companies
The Employment Equity Act (S.C. 1995, c. 44) purpose is to achieve equality in the workplace so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability and, in the fulfilment of that goal, to correct the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced by women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities by giving effect to the principle that employment equity means more than treating persons in the same way but also requires special measures and the accommodation of differences.
Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010.
Proposed Canadians With Disabilities Act (CDA) has not been enacted, leaving each province with separate regulations.
Employer Legal Requirements
Every employer shall implement employment equity by
- identifying and eliminating employment barriers against persons in designated groups that result from the employer’s employment systems, policies and practices that are not authorized by law; and
- instituting such positive policies and practices and making such reasonable accommodations as will ensure that persons in designated groups achieve a degree of representation in each occupational group in the employer’s workforce that reflects their representation in
- the Canadian workforce, or
- those segments of the Canadian workforce that are identifiable by qualification, eligibility or geography and from which the employer may reasonably be expected to draw employees.
- For the purpose of implementing employment equity, every employer shall
- collect information and conduct an analysis of the employer’s workforce, in accordance with the regulations, in order to determine the degree of the underrepresentation of persons in designated groups in each occupational group in that workforce; and
- conduct a review of the employer’s employment systems, policies and practices, in accordance with the regulations, in order to identify employment barriers against persons in designated groups that result from those systems, policies and practices.
Only those employees who identify themselves to an employer, or agree to be identified by an employer, as Aboriginal peoples, members of visible minorities or persons with disabilities are to be counted as members of those designated groups for the purposes of implementing employment equity.
Information collected by an employer is confidential and shall be used only for the purpose of implementing the employer’s obligations under this Act. The employer shall prepare an employment equity plan that includes policies and practices, measures, timetable, underpresentation, and long-term goals for improvement.
Can disability status be asked during the Application stage?
- No, aside from responding to a request for accommodation in the hiring process
- If a person chooses to talk about his/her disability at an interview, Company can ask about their accommodation needs and ability to perform the essential duties of the job with accommodation. Any questions beyond this scope should be made with great caution.
Can disability status be asked After offer has been made and After employment commences?
- Yes, although best practice would be to make completion of the data field optional.
- Company should communicate why the information is being collected and how the information will be used.
In Canada, organizations can choose to develop “special programs” to help historically disadvantaged groups (e.g. those who identify as Aboriginal) improve their employment opportunities. Special programs that target certain candidates based on a diversity characteristic, and would otherwise infringe the Human Rights Code, are permissible if the program is intended to help people who experience discrimination, economic hardship or disadvantage to achieve equality. In Ontario, Company does not need permission to develop a special program. This means that special programs can be put in place without delay. In British Columbia, Company must first apply for approval from the Human Rights Tribunal
There is a Duty to Accommodate to remove discriminatory barriers related to the prohibited grounds of discrimination, up to the point of undue hardship to the employer.
The Accessible Canada Act passed in June 2019. The purpose of the Act is to make Canada barrier-free in areas under federal jurisdiction and outlines how to identify and remove accessibility barriers and prevent new barriers, under federal rule, including in:
- the built environment;
- information and communication technologies; communication, other than information and communication technologies;
- the procurement of goods, services and facilities;
- the design and delivery of programs and services;
- transportation; and
- others areas as designated
The Act applies broadly to organizations under federal responsibility (“regulated entities”):
- Aach entity named or set out in any of Schedules I to V to the Financial Administration Act;
- Each Crown corporation, as defined in subsection 83(1) of the Financial Administration Act that is not referred to in Schedule III to that Act;
- Every portion of the federal public administration that is designated under subsection (3);
- The Canadian Forces;
- Any person, partnership or unincorporated organization that operates a work or carries on an undertaking or business that is within the legislative authority of Parliament, other than a work, undertaking or business of a local or private nature in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut; and
- Any entity or person — including a trustee, executor, administrator, liquidator of the succession, guardian, curator or tutor — that acts in the name of, or for the benefit of, any entity or person in the operation of a work or carrying on of an undertaking or business that is within the legislative authority of Parliament, other than a work, undertaking or business of a local or private nature in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
The law requires the development of a Standards Organization.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) became law in 2005 in Ontario. As such, it’s the oldest legislation of this kind in Canada. The AODA makes it compulsory for the public and private sectors to follow established sets of accessibility standards when dealing with the public. The standards fall into five categories: information and communications; customer service; transportation; employment; and design of public spaces. Under the Information and Communications Standards, Section 14, “Accessible Websites and Web Content,” outlines requirements to ensure that web content follows the technical requirements of WCAG 2.0, and that people with disabilities do not face barriers online.
The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). Manitoba’s provincial accessibility legislation was passed in 2013. Its structure is similar to Ontario’s law: It currently focuses on five mandatory accessibility standards that apply to both the public and private sectors. And, like the AODA, the AMA includes an Accessible Information and Communications Standard to ensure accessibility of information, including online. These are the Accessibility Standards, focused on five key areas of daily living:
- Customer Service Accessibility Standard – This standard addresses the business practices and training required to provide better customer service to people with disabilities.
- Employment Accessibility Standard – This standard addresses the practices related to employee recruitment, hiring, and retention.
- Information and Communications Accessibility Standard – This standard addresses barriers to accessing information, including information provided in print, in person, on websites, or other formats.
- Built Environment – This accessibility standard deals with access to those areas outside the jurisdiction of The Manitoba Building Code. These spaces include sidewalks, pathways, parks, and other aspects of the environment that are designed and constructed.
- Transportation This accessibility standard applies to public transportation and addresses barriers citizens might encounter while travelling to work, school, shopping, or other aspects of daily life.
The Nova Scotia Accessibility Act, also known as Bill 59, was passed in April 2017. The legislation aims to make Nova Scotia inclusive and barrier-free by 2030. Nova Scotia was the third province to enact accessibility legislation, after Ontario in 2005 and Manitoba in 2013. The Nova Scotia government is working with people with disabilities, and public and private sector organizations to create six standards for an accessible Nova Scotia. These standards will be drafted in phases and will be available for public consultation before coming into force. Nova Scotia’s accessibility standards are still currently in development. In accordance with the act, these standards will be in the areas of information and communication, goods and services, public transportation and transportation infrastructure, employment, education, and the built environment, which includes buildings, rights-of-way, and outdoor spaces.
In British Columbia, the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act provides protection against discrimination within the employment sector and the British Columbia Accessibility Act, 2018 is in place to achieve accessibility by preventing and removing barriers that disable people with respect to
- the delivery and receipt of goods and services,
- information and communication,
- public transportation and transportation infrastructure,
- the built environment, so that all new construction is accessible,
- education, and
- a prescribed activity or undertaking.
The British Columbia government is also taking steps towards its proclaimed vision of “Accessibility 2024,” with the goal of “making B.C. the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities by 2024” – including a fully accessible Internet. The government itself has already committed to ensuring that its online content and apps adhere to WCAG 2.0’s technical requirements.
In other Canadian provinces and territories, including Saskatchewan and Yukon, disability advocates are putting pressure on their own governments to pass accessibility legislation.
Variation by provincial region, including Quebec and Aboriginal populations, bring a variety of cultural differences to Canada. Ability may be overlooked or discounted, expectations lowered, and achievements disqualified. Knowing this, individuals whose disability can be hidden, like partial hearing loss or mental illness, have often gone to great lengths to be seen as “normal.”
Challenges passing federal comprehensive civil rights legislation although public efforts to do so.
Business Practices/ExamplesAdditional content coming soon.
In 2017, according to Statistics Canada, one in five (22%) Canadians age 15 and over had one or more disabilities. This represents about 6.2 million individuals.
Among those aged 25 to 64 years, persons with disabilities were less likely to be employed (59%) than those without disabilities (80%).
Among those with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years who were not employed and not currently in school, two in five (39%) had potential to work. This represents nearly 645,000 individuals with disabilities.
Each individual Canadian province or territory has a human rights act. These laws are important, because they make it illegal for discrimination against people with disabilities to occur in a host of areas such as the provision of goods and services, employment and housing.
Disability:IN provides the below information on currently known supplier diversity activities in the country.
Certification is in place in for women-owned business enterprises: WeConnect Canada
Talent Sourcing Resources
Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) is a Canada-wide network of organizations and individuals. They offer information, education, training and Internet- based services which support the employment of persons with disabilities.
Partners for Workplace Inclusion Program (PWIP) – Recruiting support, workplace assessment, informative presentations, accessibility audits and awareness training.
WORKink promotes and supports the employment of persons with disabilities, providing labour market and career information, access to national, , and territorial resources, and online experts’ assistance.
Workplace Essential Skills Partnership Uses pre-employment training to prepare persons with disabilities for positions with an employer partner. This service is only available in the Greater Toronto Area.
Lime Connect prepares and connects high potential university students and professionals – including veterans – with disabilities for scholarships, internships, The Lime Connect Fellowship Program, and full time careers with corporate partners. Corporate Receptions in Canada.
The Job Accommodation Service (JAS) provides Canadians with information and support regarding job accommodations to advance the employment of people with disabilities.
Autism Canada is an advocacy organization with a national perspective on the issues currently facing those with autism spectrum disorder, their families and other stakeholders. We work collaboratively to share expertise, build consensus and help inform public policy and research. In addition to encouraging the sharing of best practices across provincial and territorial boundaries, Autism Canada actively promotes national dialogue on the most effective strategies for building equitable access to funding and services.
Autism Ontario is dedicated to increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day challenges faced by individuals with autism, their families, and the professionals with whom they interact. The organization and its 25 Chapters share common goals of providing information and education, supporting research, and advocating for programs and services for the autism community.
Barrier Free Canada A comprehensive, non-partisan website with information on disability and accessibility legislation and partners.
Canadian Disability Policy Alliance A national collaboration of disability researchers, advocates, and policy-makers, aimed at creating and mobilizing knowledge to enhance disability policy in Canada. The Alliance was funded by SSHRC Community University Research Alliance.
ConnectAbliity is a website and virtual community dedicated to lifelong learning and support for people who have an intellectual disability, their families and support networks. The core of our community is accessible, self-directed access to valuable information and tools, ready on demand.
Council of Canadians with Disabilities CCD’s work in the area of Human Rights and Equality Rights apprises judges, law-makers and other decision-makers about how disability must be taken into consideration in all areas of community life, thus ensuring Canadians with disabilities have full enjoyment of their human and equality rights.
Easter Seals (Timbres de Paques) provides a variety of support services and programs, including education, job training and employment services for youth and young adults who face barriers to employment.
Federal Disability Reference Guide is a tool for identifying, clarifying and promoting policies to address issues that affect people with disabilities. While the objective of the Guide is to help ensure that federal programs, policies and services maintain or enhance the social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities, much of the Guide’s content may be of use to other governments, organizations or institutions.
The Job Accommodation Service (JAS) provides Canadians with information and support regarding job accommodations to advance the employment of people with disabilities.
Magnasmode engages companies and brands to make their products, services and customer experiences more accessible, by acting as the bridge between companies and customers who require extra assistance. Through MagnusCards®️, customers with autism and other cognitive disabilities
have increased access to services. This model empowers people with autism and other cognitive special needs to live with independence and inclusion.