Quick Facts

This section of the Do You Know Your Rights? website is for people who work for First Nations governing bodies responsible for providing service to First Nations communities. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Chief and Council members
  • band managers, officers and administrators
  • accountants, financial and human resource officers

This section of the website is intended to help you, as a First Nation’s manager, understand and address human rights issues in your organization and community. Click here for a list of related readings and resources.

The Canadian Human Rights Act (the Act) is a federal law. The Act protects all people legally allowed to be in Canada from discrimination. Under the Act, people who feel they have experienced discrimination by a federally regulated service provider or employer can make a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (the Commission). Information about changes to the Act that affected First Nations can be found here.

For a more in-depth look at human rights issues in your organization and community, read the Human Rights Handbook for First Nations.

What is Discrimination?
Discrimination is an action or decision that treats a person or a group differently and negatively for reasons like race, age or disability. Discrimination happens when someone is denied an opportunity, benefit or advantage, such as a job, promotion, service or housing, because of race, age, disability or another ground of discrimination.

It is important to note that you do not have to intend to treat someone unfairly to cause discrimination. What matters is the effect on the person making the complaint, even if the impact was not intentional.

Grounds of Discrimination
Grounds of discrimination are reasons a person may experience discrimination. There are 11 reasons or ‘grounds’ that are protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. This means that federally regulated employers and service providers cannot discriminate against people for these reasons.

The 11 grounds of discrimination protected under the Act are:

  • race
  • national or ethnic origin
  • colour
  • religion
  • age
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • marital status
  • family status
  • disability
  • a conviction for which a pardon has been granted

Discriminatory Practices
The Act forbids discriminatory practices, if they are based on one of the grounds of discrimination. Discriminatory practices cover the following areas:


  • hiring, termination, discipline and promotion decisions and policies
  • maternity or parental leave, sick leave and bereavement leave decisions and policies
  • job ads and interviews
  • workplace policies that deny people opportunities
  • different pay for work of equal value

Services Available to the Public

  • access to federal government programs, projects and services
  • access to First Nations programs, projects and services
  • physical accessibility to government buildings and premises
  • other services offered by federally regulated private sector companies that are generally available to people, like a bank loan or an airline ticket

Rental and Housing

  • access to government programs for housing for Aboriginal people
  • access to housing or rental space administered by a First Nation

Public Advertisements and Messages

  • public signs
  • hate messaging over the phone or on Canadian websites

Harassment (in the workplace or provision of services)

  • offending or humiliating someone physically or verbally
  • threatening or intimidating someone
  • making unwelcome jokes or comments about another person’s race, religion, sex, age, disability or another ground of discrimination
  • making unnecessary physical contact with someone (for example, touching, patting, pinching or punching)—this can also be assault

As an employer, you are responsible for providing a harassment-free workplace. You can be held responsible for harassment committed by your employees. Have an anti-harassment policy and provide anti-harassment training to supervisors and staff to avoid this.


  • threatening, intimidating or treating another person badly because that person filed a discrimination complaint
  • retaliation is a serious violation of the Act, with fines up to $50 000

To find out more, check out: the Human Rights Handbook for First Nations or contact the National Aboriginal Initiative.