Public Law

Section 1

Lesson 2: Human Rights Legislation

Human Rights in Canada and Alberta

The term human rights is one you have probably heard frequently, but do you know what it means? Put simply, human rights are rights protecting people from discrimination from other people.

Laws that protect our human rights are designed to ensure that everybody is treated equally in certain areas of life and that we all have access to certain places, services, and opportunities.

Legislation exists at both the federal (Government of Canada) and provincial levels to protect people's human rights.

In Canada, the federal statute is the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In Alberta, the provincial statute is the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.   

This act has established the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission. This body administers the Act ; in other words, if you think that your human rights have been violated, you should file a complaint with this commission. It will conduct an investigation. Ultimately, the case may end up in the courts, or it may be resolved before that stage. 

Human Rights: rights that protect people from discrimination from others in certain areas of life

Legislation: a law or laws that have been passed by a governing body like Alberta's Legislative Assembly or the Parliament of Canada

Statute: a specific law or act passed by a governing body, like Alberta's Legislative Assembly or the Parliament of Canada

Consider the following scenario:

  • Ms. Lavallee owns a small coffee shop, and she recently hired a server who belongs to a visible minority group.  Because Ms. Lavallee has no prejudices herself, she was shocked when some of her regular customers began complaining about her new server. The fact that the server was the most reliable and hard-working employee Ms. Lavallee had ever hired made things even harder to understand. However, afraid of losing business, Ms. Lavallee told her server that she would either have to work back in the kitchen at a reduced wage or leave the job completely.

         What do you think happened?  The server took the case to the Human Rights Commission, and won.
     Something to Think About - What do you think you would have done, if you were Ms. Lavallee?