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02Dec
2011

Local Government Services: Striking the Accommodation Balance

Section 8 of the Human Rights Code (the “Code”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of various enumerated grounds with respect to the provision of services customarily available to the public:

(1) A person must not, without a bona fide and reasonable justification,

(a) deny to a person or class of persons any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public, or

(b) discriminate against a person or class of persons regarding any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public

because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons.

Before the Human Rights Tribunal or a court will consider whether there is a bona fide and reasonable justification for discrimination, complainants must establish that:

▪Their claim relates to an accommodation, service or facility; and
▪The accommodation, service or facility is customarily available to the public.

“Accommodation”, “service” and “facility” are not defined in the Code and generally there is little distinction made between these three terms. The Tribunal has interpreted these terms broadly and therefore, a wide range of activities fall within the scope of section 8. As well, the service does not even need to be beneficial to the person directly affected by it—for example, an investigation conducted by the police and the Crown’s decision to approve charges against someone are “services” for the purposes of section 8 of the Code (British Columbia v. Crockford, 2006 BCCA 360).

The cases discussed in this paper illustrate the range of activities that local governments undertake that may be subject to claims of discrimination under section 8 of the Code, including bylaw enforcement, recreation, access to municipal buildings and hours of operation.

Download pdf: Local Government Services: Striking the Accommodation Balance

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