2017 Dec excerpt on family and marital status

excerpt on family and marital status from HRTO Application, Nov 6, 2017. Susan McPherson, Applicant
retrieved Dec 29, 2017

Question from Section C 22                 Family or marital status     
Explain why you believe you were discriminated against on the basis of your family or marital status.

1.   I believe I have been discriminated against on the basis of family and marital status. I am divorced and live alone, while my adult children – my family  -  live in different cities. As noted in the OHRC Policy and Guidelines on Discrimination because of Family Status, demographic shifts have changed our understanding of the family, The Vanier Institute of the Family indicating that “fewer than half of all Canadian families now consist of a married heterosexual couple with one or more children” (2007, p 8).  The Vanier Institute of the Family now defines “family” as:

2.   Any combination of two or more persons who are bound together over time by ties of mutual consent, birth and/or adoption or placement and who, together, assume responsibilities for variant combinations of some of the following:
  • Physical maintenance and care of group members
  • Addition of new members through procreation or adoption
  • Socialization of children
  • Social control of members
  • Production, consumption, distribution of goods and services
  • Affective nurturance – love
(2017, Definition of the family,   http://vanierinstitute.ca/definition-family ).

3.   Based on this updated view of the family, and my own participation as a member of a family, I would like to draw attention to this brief excerpt from the policies and guidelines:
Negative attitudes and stereotypes persist about the character and capabilities of persons based on certain types of family status, such as, for example, lone parents.” In my case, while not a lone parent, I have been subjected to discrimination based on the fact I am alone, appearing to be lacking family support. I live alone, and my children have been there for me when I needed them, eg, when I fractured my leg and was hospitalized, they moved all my belongings from the apartment I was living in to a different apartment.

There are many different kinds of families in today’s Ontario. Steps must be taken to ensure that all of these families are included and treated with respect and dignity. • Each person’s experience of his or her family status will be significantly affected by their race, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, creed, and whether that individual or a family member has a disability. • Negative attitudes and stereotypes persist about the character and capabilities of persons based on certain types of family status, such as, for example, lone parents” (p. 6. Policy and Guidelines on Discrimination because of Family Status, on OHRC web site, http://www.ohrc.on.ca  or http://www.ohrc.on.ca/sites/default/files/attachments/Policy_and_guidelines_on_discrimination_because_of_family_status.pdf).

4.   My focus is on a specific kind of family that goes beyond the outdated definition offered in this Policy and Guidlines publication, which states that “The ground of ‘family status’ is more narrowly defined in section 10(1) as “the status of being in a parent and child relationship” (p. 8) towards the wider definition offered by the Vanier Institute. Meanwhile, according to the OHRC,

In addition to this Policy, the Commission will continue to engage in promotion and advancement initiatives to address the broad systemic context of discrimination based on family status”  (p 6).

5.   Still within the section on family, but focusing on marital status, the Policy and Guidelines on Discrimination because of Family Status provides a definition of marital status, saying,

“Section 10(1) of the Code broadly defines the ground of marital status as follows: “marital status” means the status of being married, single, widowed, divorced or separated and includes the status of living in a conjugal relationship with a person outside of marriage. This definition includes both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships” (p 8). This is the second aspect of discrimination on the grounds of family and marital status.

6.   Moving on to how the concept of discrimination fits in with family and marital status, the publication ‘Policy and Guidelines on Discrimination because of Family Status’ suggests the following tool, to determine whether discrimination has taken place: “The third inquiry in the tool for determining discrimination,” it says, is described as Discrimination in a Substantive Sense:

“Finally, does the differential treatment discriminate by imposing a burden upon, or withholding a benefit from, an individual? The discrimination might be based on stereotypes of a presumed group or personal characteristics, or might perpetuate or promote the view that an individual is less capable or worthy of recognition or value as a human being or as a member of Canadian society who is equally deserving of concern, respect and consideration. Does the differential treatment amount to discrimination because it makes distinctions that are offensive to human dignity?” (March 2007, p 17) http://www.ohrc.on.ca/sites/default/files/attachments/Policy_and_guidelines_on_discrimination_because_of_family_status.pdf

7.   The Code has defined discrimination, in Discrimination Based on Family Status, in this way:

“The Code provides that every person has the right to be treated equally without discrimination because of family status. The purpose of anti-discrimination laws is to prevent the violation of human dignity and freedom through the imposition of disadvantage, stereotyping, or political or social prejudice” (p 16 section V http://www.ohrc.on.ca/sites/default/files/attachments/Policy_and_guidelines_on_discrimination_because_of_family_status.pdf )

8.   I have argued in my application how family and marital status have been the grounds for discrimination towards me. Together, the fact that I have been divorced, without a husband, and am part of a family that does not reside close to me, but which is my absent family much of the time, leaves me in a vulnerable position of not having support or even a witness present at times when it would be valuable for me. It is a problem many older women must experience, in this society of increased employee mobility, that they live apart from their family. Without husband and family nearby, they can be more vulnerable, particularly in situations such as the discrimination I was subjected to at LHSC.

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