Human rights in providing goods, services, accommodation or facilities
The Alberta Human Rights Act recognizes that all people are equal in dignity, rights and responsibilities when it comes to provision of goods, services, accommodation or facilities customarily available to the public. In fact, most of our day-to-day public interactions are covered by Section 4 of the AHR Act. Section 4 prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods, services, accommodation or facilities customarily available to the public on the basis of the following protected grounds:
- place of origin
- religious beliefs
- gender (including pregnancy, sexual harassment, and gender identity)
- physical disability
- mental disability
- marital status
- family status
- source of income
- sexual orientation
Age is not a protected ground under this section of the AHR Act. You can read more about age as a protected ground.
The rights and responsibilities set out in Section 4 and the rest of the AHR Act are clarified by decisions of human rights tribunals and courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada.
Goods includes, but is not limited to, all transactions involving the buying and selling of items such as cars, groceries, clothing, or building supplies.
Services includes, but is not limited to, public transportation, education, entertainment and hospitality, government services, community services, medical and professional services, and insurance.
Accommodation includes, but is not limited to, all temporary accommodation such as hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and campsites.
Facilities includes, but is not limited to, commercial buildings, arenas, hospitals, community centers and condominiums.
Those who deliver any of the above services have a responsibility to provide their services to the public in a manner that does not discriminate either directly or indirectly on the basis of any protected ground in the AHR Act. For example, a hotel that will not offer rooms to people on provincial income assistance discriminates directly, because it refuses to provide a service based on a customer's lawful source of income. A movie theater that does not have seating space for patrons in wheelchairs discriminates indirectly against people with disabilities. Although it doesn't turn customers with mobility disabilities away at the door, the effect is the same because the theatre has made it impossible for them to use its service.
Where a service provider has a requirement that would discriminate against individuals based on a protected ground such as physical disability or religious beliefs, the provider has a duty to accommodate such individuals, to the point of undue hardship. Accommodation means making changes to any rules, standards, policies or physical environments to ensure that they don't have a negative effect on anyone based on any protected ground. For example, a university exam that is expected to take three hours discriminates against students with dyslexia, who might require more time. The university could accommodate such students by providing extra time to write the exam. Also see the Alberta Human Rights Commission interpretive bulletin Duty to accommodate students with disabilities in post-secondary institutions.
Individuals who require accommodation based on a protected ground have a responsibility to let the service provider know of their needs. This gives the service provider the opportunity to make any changes necessary to accommodate not only the individual requesting the accommodation, but also any others with similar needs.
See the menu on the left for more information.
Revised: February 1, 2010