Regulating The Sex Lives Of Employees At Religious Institutions: Ontario Human Rights Commission is Updating Our Understanding of Creed

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regulating the sex lives of employees at religious institutions   ontario human rights commission is updating our understanding of creed
  • Regulating The Sex Lives Of Employees At Religious Institutions: Ontario Human Rights Commission is Updating Our Understanding of Creed

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is in the midst of a three year review of the concept “creed” in the Ontario Human Rights Code.  Navigating religious discrimination is not for the faint of heart.  It is an ambitious plan – especially when you consider the first question that they raise in a recent news release[i] –  “Should religious organizations be allowed to have a say on the sex lives and life choices of their employees?”

Now that is a question to talk about around the water cooler!  The other questions being asked include:

  • Are veganism, ethical humanism or pacifism creeds?
  • Can a school tell a student he or she can’t bring a same-sex partner to the prom?
  • What obligations do employers have to accommodate religious holidays for non-Christian staff?
  • Do they have to give staff paid days off or ask them to use vacation days?
  • What obligations do hospitals have to meet patients’ food requirements because of their religion?
  • How much can co-workers talk about their faith while at work before it violates other people’s rights?
  • How does a person know if their comments on religion in the workplace, or when providing a service, have crossed a line and become harassment?
  • Can prayers be held within public schools during school hours?
  • Where does the duty to accommodate creed beliefs and practices in public space begin and end?
  • Should the definition of creed, itself, be updated and, if so, how?

OHRC’s work in this area deserves to be taken seriously.  The final policies and reports on creed that result from this intense review will affect the religious practise of Ontarians for generations to come.  Not only Ontarians, but all Canadians need to be watching what is going on.  What happens in Ontario concerning human rights can have a major impact right across this country.

Given the gravity of the long term impact it is heartening to see that the OHRC is requesting public input.  You may want to take advantage of this opportunity and complete the survey while it is still open.  It does not take very long – for your convenience I have copied the questions of the survey below.  This will allow you to prepare answers to the questions ahead of time and to see the full survey.

While you work on the survey I will be working on more analysis of the questions the OHRC is asking.  As I post my thoughts I look forward to having a discussion with you on these very important questions.

The survey is found at:

 Creed Human Rights Survey


The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is updating its 1996 Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances. The aim of this survey is to hear from individuals, religious and other community members, employers and other groups on what creed means, peoples’ experiences of discrimination based on creed, its root causes, as well as challenges and success stories for accommodating creed beliefs and practices.

For more detailed discussion of these and other issues, see Human rights and creed: emerging issues. Your responses to this survey will help us as we revise the policy.

NOTE: By submitting this survey, you are agreeing to our collection and use of your responses. The OHRC is committed to protecting your privacy and personal information. Survey responses will only be reported on in the aggregate to protect and maintain individual anonymity (i.e. no individuals or specific organizations will be identified in OHRC analysis and reporting of survey results).

A. Demographic questions

The following questions help us get an accurate picture of the demographic make-up of survey respondents. Statistics Canada categories are used in places for comparison purposes. The information will help us gauge how diverse and representative survey respondents are.

1. What is the first letter of the postal code where you live?

  • K (Eastern region)
  • L (Central region)
  • M (Toronto)
  • N (Western region)
  • P (Northern region)
  • Please specify if other:

2. Which category describes you best?

  • Under 35
  • 35 – 44
  • 45 – 54
  • 55 and over
  • I prefer not to answer

3. Which category describes you best?

  • Female
  • Male
  • Transgender
  • I prefer not to answer

4. Do you self identify as Aboriginal?

  • No
  • Yes, Métis
  • Yes, First Nations
  • Yes, Inuit
  • Other
  • I prefer not to answer

4-A. Please specify what First Nation you belong to, or self-identify with:

4-B. Do you live on a reserve?

  • Note: A “reserve” is defined here as a “tract of federally owned land with specific boundaries that is set apart for the use and benefit of an Indian band and that is governed by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC)” (Statistics Canada).
  • Yes
  • No
  • Other
  • I prefer not to answer

5. Which category describes you best? You may check more than one category.

  • Arab
  • Black (African-Canadian)
  • Filipino
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Latin American
  • South Asian (e.g., East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, etc.)
  • Southeast Asian (e.g., Vietnamese, Cambodian, Malaysian, Laotian, etc.)
  • West Asian (e.g., Iranian, Afghan, etc.)
  • White
  • Other
  • I prefer not to answer


6. Which category describes you best?

  • Buddhist
  • Christian
  •         Anglican
  •         Baptist
  •         Born-again Christian
  •         Christian Orthodox
  •         Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  •         Evangelical Protestant
  •         Lutheran
  •         Mennonite
  •         Jehovah’s Witnesses
  •         Pentecostal
  •         Presbyterian
  •         Roman Catholic
  •         United Church
  • Hindu
  • Jewish
  • Muslim
  • Sikh
  • Traditional (Aboriginal) Spirituality
  • No religion
  •        Atheist
  •        Agnostic
  •        Spiritual but not religious
  • Other
  • If you checked “other” please specify:

B. Meaning of Creed

The Ontario Human Rights Code protects people from discrimination based on creed in employment, housing, services, contracts and vocational associations.

7. What do you think creed is?

8. In the past creed has been understood and explained primarily to mean “religion.” How do you think creed may differ from religion, if at all?

9. Do you consider yourself a member of a non-religious community affiliated by creed?

  • Yes. Please specify creed:
  • No
  • I prefer not to answer

10. Do you think non-religious beliefs and practices (such as ethical veganism or pacifism or humanism) should receive human rights protection as “creeds” under the Code?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe
  • Why? Why not?

11. Do you think matters of “individual conscience” which may or may not be connected to religion should receive human rights protection as “creed” under the Code?

Note: Conscience may include things like the moral decision whether or not to participate in military activities requiring acts of violence.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Why? Why not?

C. Discrimination trends and experiences

Many people report they face different treatment or harassment because of their creed while trying to apply for a job or while at work, shopping or trying to get a service, or renting an apartment etc.

12.  Have you experienced discrimination

12-A. Was the discrimination related to creed?

  • Yes
  • No

12-B. What happened?

13. Do you know of other people (individuals or communities) who have experienced discrimination because of creed?

  • Yes
  • No

13-A. What was their experience?

14. Why do you think creed discrimination happens?

D. Creed accommodation

The Human Rights Code says people should be included and “accommodated’ based on their creed. For example, accommodation for creed at work could include allowing time and physical space for religious observances or providing suitable food choices. Putting such ideals into practice, however, might be challenging sometimes.

15. Have you as an individual ever sought an accommodation for a creed belief or practice?

  • Yes
  • No

15-A. Have you faced challenges when asking for accommodation?

16. Have you, or your organization, ever had to respond to a creed accommodation request?

  • Yes
  • No

16-A. Have you or your organization faced challenges when accommodating creed beliefs and practices?

  • Yes
  • No

16-B. What challenges did you or your organization face, if any, when accommodating creed beliefs and practices?

17. What guidance would you like to see in the updated creed policy to help you with creed accommodation?

E. Other issues

18. Are there other questions or issues that you think are important for the OHRC to consider as part of its creed policy update?

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