Your rights are protected!
As a person with a disability, you are part of the world’s largest minority! In Canada, many laws have been enacted to ensure that you enjoy the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, including access to justice, education and employment, and perhaps most importantly, freedom from discrimination.
The law guarantees you the right to receive an education, to move around freely, to live independently, and much more! Does this mean the system is perfect? Certainly not! That is why it is important to know your rights. We all have rights. But sometimes action is required on our part, in order to benefit from the rights to which we are entitled.
What is discrimination?
- If you are being excluded from participating in society in some way, at work, at home, or at school, for example, this is discrimination.
- If you feel you are being treated differently than others because of some physical, intellectual, or sensory barrier, this is discrimination.
- If you feel that someone else has been given preferential treatment because of his or her lack of disability, this is discrimination.
How do I know if I have been a victim of discrimination?
Discrimination is often in the eye of the beholder. If you feel you have been discriminated against, you may be right.
How does the law define discrimination?
Article 10 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms states,
Every person has a right to full and equal recognition and exercise of his human rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.
Discrimination exists where such a distinction, exclusion or preference has the effect of nullifying or impairing such right.
What does this mean in plain English? If you are denied an opportunity such as a job or internship, access to an academic program or participation in a contest because of your race, your gender or a physical or mental handicap, this is discrimination.
How does the law define the word “disability”?
Most often the term “handicap” refers to a long-term physical, mental or sensory deficiency that might result in negative attitudes and physical obstacles.
The Canadian judicial system also recognizes that a “disability” can be based on a third party’s individual perception or, more commonly, is the result of societal barriers like a lack of ramps or inflexibility in teaching methods.
Disability often resides in society rather than in the person!
Environmental barriers like inaccessibility to buses or staircases can prevent a person in a wheelchair from getting a job. Sometimes a teacher will have a bad attitude toward a student with a learning disability and refuse to adapt to his or her needs. These are societal problems that require action on our part! Exercise your rights.
Know your rights and defend them!
Now that you are familiar with your rights, it is fundamentally important that you defend them! If not, those rights are meaningless! You must take action! Most universities have a student association and/or and advocacy group for students with disabilities who are there to help you.
How do I exercise my rights?
Step One: Verify that you have provided all necessary information to the institution or person in question. Are there documents missing from your file? Make sure you have covered all your bases! Oftentimes exercising your rights is simply a matter of filling out the proper forms and providing the right information so that the institution, business or person can accommodate you.
Step Two: Once you have verified that your information has been sent and received, if the situation is not corrected, you have the right to file a complaint with the Commission des droits et libertés de la personne et de la jeunesse.
Commission des droits et libertés de la personne et de la jeunesse
The Commission was established in order to put your rights into action. You can get information or carry out research at their offices in Montreal. Its staff can help you with your complaint, direct you through the process, help you gather the necessary documents, and/or guide you toward a professional, if necessary.
After you have filed a complaint, the Commission will conduct an investigation. They will attempt to reach a settlement with the institution in question, if applicable. If no voluntary settlement can be reached, the matter will be referred to arbitration. Evidence is heard and the arbitrator will rule on the matter, imposing a solution on both parties.
You have three years to file a complaint, starting from the date of the incident in question. For more information, visit http://www.cdpdj.qc.ca.
The best defense is always a collective defense. Get involved with the student association at your school! They can help you and you can help others in turn.
** AQEIPS would like to thank Amy Knapp, Law student and volunteer from the Programme ProBono-UQAM for her collaboration in writing this section of the guide under the supervision of her teachers.