In late 2015, after four years of consultation and research, the
Ontario Human Rights Commission (the "Commission")
published its Policy on Preventing Discrimination on the Basis of
Creed. The new policy replaced the prior version, which had been
published in 1996. Significantly, the new policy specifically
affirmed that, in the Commission's view, the term
"creed" included non-religious belief systems that
"substantially influence a person's identity, worldview
and way of life". Non-religious beliefs had been excluded from
the protection of the Human Rights Code (the "Code") by
the 1996 policy.
Although the new policy did not list veganism or vegetarianism
as creeds and, in fact, explicitly avoided lists or categories of
creeds, it did refer to food restrictions and vegetarian dietary
requirements as areas requiring accommodation. Some media outlets
pounced on the new language and announced that Ontario had
recognized veganism as a human right. The story was picked up in
the Huffington Post and by newspapers such as the National Post and
the Toronto Star.
On February 25, 2016, the Commission published a public
statement on its website affirming that the new policy does
not actually recognize ethical veganism as a creed. The
Commission stated that it was not its role to determine whether any
belief system qualified as a "creed" within the meaning
of the Code and that it was up to the Courts and the Ontario Human
Rights Tribunal to do so on the basis of the facts of any
The Commission went on to affirm the key considerations that any
employer or service provider should take into account when
determining whether or not a belief may be protected under the
Is it sincerely, freely and deeply
Is the belief integrally linked to a
person's identity, self-definition and fulfilment?
Is it a comprehensive and overarching
system of belief that governs one's conduct and practices?
Does it address ultimate questions of
human existence, including ideas about life, purpose, death and the
existence or non-existence of a Creator?
Does the system have some connection
to an organization or community that professes a shared system of
Several vegan and animal rights organizations have cited the new
policy with excitement and have called it a victory for veganism in
Ontario. We expect to see an Ontario complaint of discrimination
based on the creed of ethical veganism very soon.
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