States have a responsibility of ensuring equity among its citizens. Equity is a function of respect for human rights. Principles of democracy advocate that people have the rights to make choices of their course of actions. However, this provision does not imply that they should break the democratic rights of others while preserving discourses of their democratic rights (Isakhan & Stockwell, 2011). Theories of democracy such as Pluralism, protective, and performance democracy uphold the principle that autonomous people need to be liberated in numerous imperative aspects. They have to be at liberty with reference to issues such as communication, congregation, and ethics (Sen, 2004).
This claim suggests that people have certain entitlements. To guarantee equity in these entitlements, states must respect them without discrimination and/or segregation of the people who claim them. This paper focuses on workplace and housing discrimination in Canada. The focus emanates from the assertion that despite numerous human rights and related laws, which prohibit discrimination, it is still evident in Canada. First, the paper examines the extent of the two problems. Moreover, it discusses the reasons for the existence of the problems. It then analyses the Canadian resolution approach from the dimension of proclamation of human rights. Finally, it discusses what can be done to improve the situation.
The Extent of the Problem of Workplace and Housing Discrimination
All people in Canada have a right not to suffer any discrimination in all lifestyles. Federal and provincial governments have put enough measures to ensure that people are not discriminated in terms of accessing public utilities and services. Unlike the situation in nations such as Australia and America where studies by Velez and Moradi (2012) and Waters (2014) have been completed to determine the extent of the problem of discrimination, insignificant information is available in Canada.
However, Hulchanski, Bourne, and Campsie (2010) reveal that loopholes that permit discrimination in housing exist since “most Canadian case laws deal with discrimination in relation to employment rather than housing” (p. 3). Discrimination in housing takes the form of charging some people higher rents together with conducting screening on some people in a manner, which does not apply to all potential tenants.
Incidences of discrimination in housing vary in different provinces. In the province of Ontario, studies indicate that landowners exercise rigorous monetary vetting measures when opportunity rates are few and/or when struggle for accommodation is at the peak (Hulchanski, Bourne & Campsie, 2010). In 1950s, racial discrimination in housing was a reality since property owners did not want to rent their houses to racial minorities (Swidinsky & Swidinsky, 2002; Swidinsky & Swidinsky, 2002). However, studies that were conducted in 1980 found lesser incidences of discrimination. Nevertheless, this revelation does not imply that the problem is over. Availability of data on discrimination in Canada is limited in terms of house buying and financing.
Hulchanski, Bourne, and Campsie (2010) assert that evidence exists that real estate agents steer blacks to predominantly black residential houses whilst taking Whites to white suburbans. Such actions are against the law. The Canadian charter on human rights grants all people the right to live in any province or estate irrespective of their racial or nationality. Lack of data on housing discrimination in all provinces of Canada creates difficulties of assessing the problem with greater precision in an effort to develop appropriate recommendation to deal with the problem. However, it is important to consider the solution to such a problem through benchmarking other nation’s approaches to curb social, political, and economic discrimination.
Workplace discrimination is illegal in Canada. Legal frameworks on workplace discrimination are provided for in the Employment Equity Act, which places a requirement on all employers to ensure equal representation of females, the disabled, natives, and those who constitute visible minorities (Swidinsky & Swidinsky, 2002). It specifically states, “Employment equity means more than treating persons the same way but also requires special measures and the accommodation of differences” (Grundy & Smith, 2010, p. 341). The goal of the Act is to ensure equal participation of people in nation building by ensuring equivalent purchasing powers amid their diversity.
In my view, although the Employment Equity Act is instrumental in ensuring equity in workplaces, challenges have always emerged in its implementation. For instance, its breach by some organisations only attracts little fines (Grundy & Smith, 2010). Conflicts also emerge due to arguments on infringement of rights. For instance, while people have the rights of being recruited to work for an organisation amid their racial, cultural, or even ethnic backgrounds, an organisation has the right to recruit its preferred persons. In fact, despite the evident several human rights and related laws that prohibit discrimination, women, racialised people, for example, recent immigrants and those who live with “disabilities”, such people live in job ghettoes that offer low wages whilst providing minimal advancement opportunities (Harish, Bai & Lee, 2010).
Reasons for the Existence of the Problem
Through the human rights charter, Canada claims to be a champion and advocate for human rights. However, amid the declaration of the rights, a major question emerges on whether successful claim or guarantee of the rights is possible without establishing comprehensive policy frameworks for ensuring their implementation. For example, organisations are required to pay all their workers their overtime dues and sick day offs.
Unfortunately, they may violate this right, yet such violation attracts very little penalty if any (Grundy & Smith, 2010). Major challenges also emerge on the need to balance different rights of different groups of people in situations where their claimed rights clash. Consequently, Canada considers people’s rights conditional as opposed to being absolute. Isakhan and Stockwell (2011) confirm that the limitation of rights is important to curtail instances of violation of rights of other people while exploring one’s rights. For instance, even though freedom of expression is expressed explicitly in Canada’s human rights charter, such expression should not demean other people.
In Canada, rights are about equity and equality of all Canadians irrespective of their diversity differences. They have both national and international dimensions. In the international dimension, rights are anchored in voluntary treaties as opposed to being provided for in the national laws. In my opinion, this observation suggests that such rights are not enforceable. Lack of enforceability increases the problems due to lack of adequate legal mechanisms for protection of such rights (Agocs, 2005).
International rights are mainly of civil, economic, political, and social in nature. They only apply to government actions. Thus, they fail to regulate conducts of actors in the private sector. This situation creates room for discrimination, especially where regulations that are provided for in the international treaties are not equally reflected in the national laws.
The national rights domain means that such freedom is provided for in the Canadian laws. Thus, it is enforceable through tribunals and courts. However, this situation is not always the case since courts may lack jurisdictional power to enforce some rights (Grundy & Smith, 2010). National rights are political and civil in nature. They bind private sectors and the government. Lack of jurisdictional or insufficiency of power to enforce some universal rights that are provided for in the constitution can also explain the existence of the two problems amid efforts by the federal and provincial governments to eliminate them.
Elimination of Discriminations in Canada
Discussing Canada’s approach to the problems of discrimination is perhaps incomplete without analysing the available commitments to address the challenge in other jurisdictions that have similar approaches for enhancing equity in rights. In Ontario province, the narrow scope in application of human rights led to the enactment of Ontario’s Human Rights in 1962 (Grundy & Smith, 2010). One of the earliest attempts to foster equity through enactment of rights Acts was in 1932 when Ontario insurance discrimination Act came into force. The main goal was to ensure that all people were protected against discrimination in insurance claims along racial and religious tenets.
The racial discrimination Act followed later in 1944 (Agocs, 2005). The Act limited any kind of publication, which advanced religious, racial, or creed discrimination. In 1951, laws that protected people from employment discrimination came into force through the Fair Employment Practices Act. The Act sought to ensure equity in the allocation of housing, employment terms, and other areas of concern among diverse employees irrespective of their colour, race, ancestry, dogma, or nationality (Harish, Bai & Lee, 2010). A bigger scope was incorporated in the 1944 racial discrimination Acts in 1954. This move led to the creation of the Fair Accommodations Practices Act (Harish, Bai & Lee, 2010).
Although the 1962 Ontario’s Human Rights Code covered many areas of discrimination among citizens, age discrimination was still prevalent. This concern resulted in the enactment of the Age Discrimination Act of 1966, although it was repealed later in 1972 (Agocs, 2005).
In 1981, Ontario expanded Age Discrimination Act to limit employment, services and housing discrimination of people between 18 and 65 years old. The women equal employment Act that was enacted in 1970 sought to reduce gender-based employment discriminations. The 1962 Ontario’s Human Rights Code was expanded in 1986 to include sexual-oriented discrimination and disability-focused discrimination in 1981 (Harish, Bai & Lee, 2010). This expansion of the scope ensured better equity among all Ontarians. However, due to insufficient or lack of enforcement of different rights that were covered in the 1962 Ontario Human Rights Code, discrimination and oppressions are still present even today (Agocs, 2005).
The right to life, liberty, living, and working in all places across Canada, security, protection of unusual treatment, and rights of voting are also provided for in the Canadian rights charter. The application of these rights is limited to reasonable limits, which are justified by law and principles of democracy (Grundy & Smith, 2010). I can conclude that Canada approaches people’s rights from the dimension that proclaiming some rights should not lead to erosion of the rights of other people. In my view, this plan introduces the concept of relativity in human rights.
Addressing the Challenge of Discrimination in Canada
Amid the establishment of various legal provisions and engagement in the international pacts on human rights in an attempt to curb discrimination of people along economic, social, political and civil dimension, the problems have not been eliminated successfully. This situation raises the question on what Canada can do to handle the problem more effectively. This section considers what can be done to help reduce the problem of discrimination in Canada with particular focus on workplaces and housing discrimination.
Discrimination in all facets of the society constitutes an important issue of public interest across all nations. Efforts to solve particular problems that attract public concerns create the necessity to formulate and implement public policies that seek to enhance equity among all citizens.
Ridde (2009) fundamentally defines a public policy as an action that the government deems appropriate and/or inappropriate for people it serves. Put differently, public policy encompasses a set of aims together with specified group of activities, which when properly executed resolve a particular public problem (Lyhne, 2011). Segregation or discrimination of people in various facets of the Canadian society constitutes an important issue that attracts public interest. People are interested in knowing what their federal and provincial governments do to mitigate such challenges.
Issues of public interest within a nation are well solved by establishment of a clear plan that is best laid via public policy frameworks. However, this strategy does not imply that plans to solve issues of public concern can be successful in enhancing housing and workplace equity among all Canadians. In some situations, governments adopt policies, which fail to achieve the anticipated outputs (Lyhne, 2011).
This situation occurs when a formulated public policy is implemented while the problem that is intended to be solved by the policy continues to persist. Such a situation attracts the attention of policy analysts who seek to determine the reasons that lead to policy failure. One of the commonest approaches for achieving this object entails digging out deficiencies in the policy formulation and implementation phases (Ridde 2009). While resolving the challenges of persistent inequity in housing and workplaces in different areas in Canada, it is important for public policy frameworks to avoid policy deficiencies in terms of clarity in defining the manner in which one right amounts to the infringement of another.
States have a responsibility to develop policies for enhancing equity among all citizens. However, some of these rights are not complied with due to lack of an enforcement mechanism. Thus, to foster equal housing and workplace rights, federal governments and provincial administration in Canada need to develop and enforce appropriate public policies that seek to safeguard the rights. However, the interrogative on the necessary ways of addressing the problem of the discrimination, which needs to be incorporated in policies that seek to safeguard people’s rights, comprises a major issue among policy developers and implementers.
Workplace discrimination is one of the important areas of focus in any nation that embraces diversity whilst endeavouring to mitigate the challenge of discrimination and oppression as some of the hindrances to equity in human rights. Indeed, the challenge of inequality in workplaces is not unique to Canada. It is also a global problem, especially in nations with the rich history in racial and gender-based discrimination. For instance, in the US, the 1963 Equal Pay Act end the conduct of offering men more competitive pays than women for the same jobs. Civil rights Act of 1964 took the protection a notch higher by offering similar protection to various minority groups. However, amid such as efforts, some women still feel they are discriminated in workplaces.
In Canada, the employment Act of 1995 has been implemented with complaints that are similar to those that were experienced after the implementation of the US 1963 Equal Pay Act (Harish, Bai & Lee, 2010). Therefore, enactment of effective policy such as imposing heavy fines or even total closure of organisations that continue to advance workplace discrimination can help significantly reduce the problem. A strategy is also required to address the root causes of inequity in both housing and workplaces. For instance, racial stereotypes, which may give rise to housing discrimination and steering along cultural diversities, may be well solved through establishing policies that seek to encourage people to unite along the spirit of Canadian nationalism, as opposed to their cultural differences.
Discrimination reflects the manner in which diversity is performed in organisations. Workplace and housing discrimination in many parts of the world, including Canada is a reality that can be interlinked with exploitation. Canada needs to enact policies that encourage upwards mobility of the often-discriminated and oppressed groups of people in the workplace. History of Canada reveals that rights are granted after being fought for by people who are discriminated politically, economically, and socially. This claim implies that rights intertwine with oppression, exploitation, and segregation based on gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and physical and mental abilities among other demographic characteristics. With the cognition of these precedents of rights and equity struggles, the paper has discussed the dual challenges of housing and workplace discrimination in Canada in an attempt to offer their possible solutions.
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