The Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) was enacted in 1962. The Code prohibits actions that discriminate against people based on a protected ground (i.e., age, ancestry, race, citizenship, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.) in a protected social area (i.e., housing, contracts, employment, goods, services, etc.).
Under the subcategory ‘Creed and Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples‘, the Ontario Human Rights Code recognizes the “diversity of beliefs and spiritual practices among Indigenous Peoples… Indigenous peoples may not identify their spiritual beliefs as a religion, but legal cases have clearly recognized Indigenous Spirituality to be within the meaning of creed under the Code.
The below information can be found on the OHRC website:
Accommodation and Indigenous Spirituality
Indigenous peoples in Ontario continue to face major barriers to practicing spiritual traditions. This has sometimes been because people do not understand Indigenous Spirituality as a whole way of life, and as a result, don’t recognize and accommodate Indigenous Spirituality in its diverse forms and expressions. Also, attitudes and institutional practices of the colonial past continue to affect us today.
Organizations may have a duty to accommodate creed-related practices that conflict with existing schedules, holidays, or absence policies. Not accommodating an Indigenous person’s spiritual beliefs or practices may be discrimination under the Code.
Examples may include:
- Providing time off for activities such as solstice celebrations or other ceremonies marking the seasons or harvest time
- Offering space for a spiritual ceremony such as a smudge
- Giving time off for significant days connected to Indigenous Spirituality, such as bereavement time for extended family
Organizational policies or rules should not be used to deny accommodating Indigenous spiritual practices.
Indigenous Spirituality may include non-ceremonial practices, perhaps related to food, dress, and appearance. Organizations may have a duty to accommodate these standards when they are connected to an Indigenous cultural-spiritual belief.
Organizations may also have to provide access to sacred objects (required for Indigenous spiritual practices and make sure these objects remain accessible as needed (for example, providing hospital patients access to traditional medicines).
As an accommodation provider:
- Accept an accommodation request in good faith unless there is evidence the request is not genuine
- Ask only for information reasonably needed to determine accommodation options
- Respect the privacy of the person asking for accommodation, and share information only when necessary
- Take an active role in looking at accommodation solutions that meet individual and group needs
- Deal with accommodation requests as quickly as possible, even if it means creating a temporary solution while you develop a long-term one
- Cover the cost of accommodations