Protected groups have the explicit right to freedom from harassment in housing accommodation
and employment. The Code defines harassment as “engaging in a course of vexatious
[annoying or provoking] comment or conduct which is known or ought reasonably to be
known to be unwelcome.”
The most important word in the definition is “unwelcome.” We do not have the right to
impose our words or actions on someone if they are not wanted. It does not matter if the
person has done this intentionally or unintentionally.
Some people may be shy or afraid to respond to unwelcome comments or actions. That is
why the Code includes the words “ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.”
For example, everyone is expected to know that racial or ethnic slurs or jokes are unwelcome
—the speaker should not need to be told that the comment is unwelcome. However, sometimes
it is necessary to point out that certain behaviours are causing discomfort.
“Engaging in a course of ” means that a comment or action would probably have to occur
more than once for it to be considered harassment. However, an employer need only make a
comment such as “People like you have no business here” once to a person of colour or a
woman, for the employee to believe that he or she will not get equal treatment. Comments like
these create a poisoned environment for members of that group as well as others.
The principles of harassment (while not explicitly stated in the Code) also apply in the area
of services. For instance, if students harass others because of their race, sex, sexual orientation,
disability, religion etc., this could be grounds for a complaint. Education is a “service” to
which all are equally entitled.
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