The fundamental purpose of human rights legislation is to protect the rights of all persons to be judged on their own merits and to have equality of opportunity. This requires that society recognize and restrict unreasonable discrimination against individuals including discrimination based on stereotypes. It also requires a recognition that past, as well as current policies, practices and systems have directly and indirectly discriminated against certain groups.
Such groups do not enjoy equality of opportunities in areas of living including employment, housing, and public services and facilities. These disadvantages are usually based on, or related to, protected characteristics such as ancestry, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, and physical or mental disability.
Frequently, although not in every instance, the disadvantage and inequality are longstanding and have resulted from past discrimination, both intentional and unintentional or systemic.
In response to this reality, human rights legislation recognizes the need for employment equity and other special programs to overcome this historic disadvantage.
Special programs, by definition, give preference or special consideration to disadvantaged groups or individuals. In order that this does not constitute unreasonable discrimination, human rights legislation includes specific provisions for such programs.
Is employment equity or affirmative action a form of discrimination?
It is not discrimination, or a contravention of The Code to plan, advertise, adopt or implement a program with the objective of the bettering the conditions those who have been historically disadvantaged.