Federal Legal Precedents

Deaf and hard of hearing workers in Canada have the same rights as those employees who are hearing. The Canadian Human Rights Act, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Accessible Canada Act, Supreme Court of Canada rulings, Ontario Human Rights Code, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and AODA Employment Standards mandate the legal responsibility for an organization, business or facility to be accessible.

Canadian Human Rights Act (1977)

The Canadian Human Rights Act extends the Federal laws of Canada to uphold the principle that all individuals should have equal opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated without being hindered or prevented from doing so by discrimination based on a perceived disability.

As a federal employer, you are required to ensure that all people affected by your organization are treated equally, regardless of their race, gender, disability or any of the other grounds of discrimination listed in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Employers are obligated to accommodate persons with disabilities including Deaf and hard of hearing individuals to ensure communication access in the workplace.  The duty to accommodate includes the employers’ responsibility to take appropriate action against any employee who harasses someone based on the listed protected groups such as disability. An employer can be held responsible for harassment committed by their employees.

Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a bill of rights entrenched in the Canadian Constitution.

The Charter is explicit in its provision for sign language interpreting services during any court proceedings in which Deaf Canadians are involved.[1]  In Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General) [1997], the Court ruled that it is the responsibility of entities responsible for acting out legislation to provide sign language interpreting.  While Eldridge dealt specifically with the right to sign language interpreting in the health care system, the principles set out apply more generally to services provided by government, or non-government organizations carrying out specific government objectives, thus setting a precedent and expanding section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Charter protects the political and civil rights of all Canadians and supersedes all provincial and federal human rights legislations.

Accessible Canada Act (ACA)

ACA is in process and expected to pass in the House of Commons in Spring 2019. The Accessible Canada Act proactively eliminates barriers and ensures greater opportunities for Canadians with disabilities. ACA has six standards which include Service Canada’s service delivery, built environment, employment, information and communication technologies, transportation and procurement.

[1] Section 14 and 15.1 Supreme Court of Canada’s Eldridge & Federal Court of Canada’s Canadian Association of the Deaf decisions are examples in Section 15.1.

What Are Employer Federal Legal Obligations?