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Veganism protected as a creed from discrimination

The increasing awareness and outrage about animal welfare issues related to human consumption has seen more people ascribing to vegan lifestyles. This is exciting to see and those who choose to opt out of using animal products ought to be not only supported, but protected, in doing so. 

If you refuse to wear leather or other animal products because of ethical reasons you may have a claim under the Ontario Human Rights Code for discrimination on the basis of “creed”. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has considered whether or not ethical vegans are protected by the Code on at least four occasions, with the most recent being in 2013, but has never decided the issue. Since then, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released its new policy on creed and further opened the door to arguing that ethical vegans are entitled to protection from discrimination in Ontario. In that policy the Commission noted that characteristics including the following will be relevant in determining whether a belief system is a creed:

·        The belief is sincerely, freely and deeply held;
·        It is integrally linked to a person’s identity, self-definition and fulfillment; and
·        It is an overarching system of beliefs governing one’s conduct.

Based on these characteristics, ethical veganism ought to be protected as a creed from discrimination and trigger an employer’s duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship. It is important to note, however, that the Commission’s policies are persuasive but not binding on the Tribunal. Until this issue is litigated at the Tribunal it remains to be seen how “creed” will be applied to those who refuse to use animal products for ethical reasons.