Age Discrimination in Other Contexts in British Columbia
March 14, 2022
BY Nicole Freeman, Monika Steger, and Alison Wilkinson
This is the third of a three-part series discussing age discrimination and older people. The first post focused on the human rights process and age discrimination generally. The second post looked at age discrimination in employment settings. This final post reviews other settings where age related discrimination occurs.
This blog post:
- Explores age discrimination in providing of services and access to facilities, and in the housing context.
- Lists items to think about to help decide if discrimination occurred in the above listed areas.
Discrimination in Providing of Services & Access to Facilities
Under the British Columbia Human Rights Code (the “Code”) a person cannot refuse services or access to facilities on the basis of a protected characteristic. Examples of protected characteristics include age, sex, disability, marital status, and sexual orientation.
There are a wide variety of situations in which a person may experience discrimination with respect to a service or access to a facility. This ranges from obvious settings like hotels, stores, and restaurants, to less obvious options like schools, government programs, and services provided by stratas. For example, a person cannot refuse to provide someone a hotel room because they are too old.
The first post in this series goes into more detail about what is required to prove age discrimination in the human rights process generally. Check out that post here.
Below are some factors to consider with respect to denial of services or access to facilities:
- Was there a legitimate reason for the denial of services or difference in treatment? For example, in Hasek v BC Ministry of Health (No 2), the person with the human rights complaint (the “complainant”) argued age discrimination because people over 60 were required to pay for a chickenpox vaccine, while children received the vaccine for free. The Ministry of Health was able to provide detailed evidence on the rationale for this policy, and thus the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) dismissed the complaint.
- Is the claim actually related to denial of a service? For example, in Smith v RebalanceMD and another the complaint focused on comments made about her x-ray and CT scans. Namely, that they were that of an old person. The Tribunal found that the comments did not reach a level that breached the Code. Further, the complainant was not actually denied services. Rather, she chose not to return. The complaint was dismissed.
- Were other groups or persons also denied access to the facilities? For example, in Bastien and others obo Senior Citizens Curlers v City of Coquitlam, the complainants were upset that their usual curling rink was going to be repurposed as an all-purpose rink and that they would have to travel nearly six kilometers to a new curling rink. The Tribunal found the complainants were not the most effected by the decision and the complaint was dismissed.
Discrimination in Housing
Housing can include tenancy (renting), purchasing property, or involvement with a strata. Unfortunately, discrimination can occur in all these situations. For example, a person may be denied a rental unit or have their offer for purchase refused because of their age. This can have serious impacts on older people, who can struggle to obtain affordable and suitable housing.
Below are some factors to consider in a housing context:
- Was there a valid reason to deny or terminate tenancy? It is important to consider other potential reasons for an action. For example, a landlord may terminate a tenancy when the tenant has stopped paying rent, or because the suite has safety concerns.
- Was there a valid reason to refuse a claimant’s offer to purchase? Again, in looking to determine if discrimination occurred, it is important to consider if reasonable grounds existed for the behaviour. For example, perhaps two individuals made similar offers, but the accepted offer had no conditions.
- Was there a duty to accommodate? Just like in an employment context, a duty to accommodate exists in the housing context(see a description of accommodation in employment here). For example, in the case of Stewart v Satorotas Enterprises Ltd, a claimant required a ramp to access her apartment. The other party refused to build a ramp. Ultimately, the Tribunal found that the duty to accommodate the claimant had not been met because practical solutions had not been explored.
This blog series has focused on age discrimination for older people. Focusing on the Code and Tribunal decisions, this series has provided basic information on discrimination ranging from hiring to housing.
This series has illustrated that age discrimination can occur in many contexts. It is useful for older people to know their rights and advocate for themselves when they can. It is also important for individuals to understand the human rights process, and what makes a claim more or less likely to succeed. If you need help with a legal problem, you are an older person, and you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be able to get legal advice or representation from the BC Human Rights Clinic or Seniors First BC. Advocates can also be found through Povnet. The Tribunal also provides this comprehensive table of agencies that can help.
Hopefully, age based discrimination will decrease as advocacy and education on this topic become more widespread.