Public Law 

Section 1

Lesson 1: Why Protect the Rights of Individuals?

Take a look at the following scenarios:

  • The promotion you deserve at work goes to someone else, and you are convinced that it is because you are a woman.

  • You're refused admittance into a restaurant because the owner dislikes your particular ethnic group.

You are no doubt aware of behaviour of this sort; it is difficult to live in our society and not to have heard of the struggles different groups sometimes face to achieve equality of treatment.

Although the problem is far from solved, it is true that tremendous strides have been made in recent decades in the effort to eliminate discrimination.

As a group, Canadians feel that individual rights should be protected from discrimination.  Most Canadians take pride in the laws that offer this protection and believe that they make our country a better place to work and live.

Right:  a power or privilege granted by the law.  

Discrimination involves treating some people differently from others because of a characteristic shared by members of a group to which they belong, or that is believed to be shared by members of that group.

This characteristic might be skin colour, for instance, or perhaps sexual orientation, age, religion, or gender.

Without looking yet at the list that follows, take a couple of minutes and try to list as many reasons people have for discriminating against others as you can.  

Did any of the following make your list?

  • race (used here to include background, colour, and ancestry)

  • language

  • religion

  • citizenship (officially belonging to a country)

  • political beliefs

  • gender (including the condition of pregnancy)

  • sexual orientation

  • marital or family status

  • disability

  • poverty and/or source of income

  • past criminal offenses