LGBTQ+ persons* sometimes face discrimination or harassment because of stereotypes and prejudice against them. Quebec law doesn’t allow these unlawful acts, and there are ways to report them.
*Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer. The “+” refers to other groups sometimes added to the end of the LGBTQ acronym. To better understand the various LGBTQ+ terms, refer to the Egale Canada Human Rights Trust website.
Discrimination means preventing a person from having the same rights or access to the same services as other people because of a personal characteristic like sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
These personal characteristics are called prohibited grounds of discrimination. They can’t be used to justify limiting a person’s rights, whether the discrimination comes from another person, a company or the government.
The law also prohibits other grounds of discrimination, such as social condition, ethnic origin, race, age, language and disability.
Harassment is behaviour that threatens another person’s dignity or physical or psychological well-being, such as repeated words or actions that are offensive or hostile toward a person.
Sometimes just one event is considered harassment if it is serious enough to threaten the dignity or health of the victim. Similar actions can also be considered bullying.
Discriminatory harassment is harassment toward another person based on prohibited grounds of discrimination. This behaviour is not allowed, no matter what the situation.
Examples of discrimination and prohibited practices
Work: An employer can’t refuse to hire or promote someone because of personal characteristics, such as the person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Psychological or sexual harassment in the workplace is also forbidden.
Housing: An owner can’t refuse to sign a lease with a person because of the person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Also, an owner can’t end a lease, discriminate against or harass a tenant for these reasons.
Access to services, transportation and public places: No one can refuse to provide someone with goods or services that are generally available to the public because of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Also, discrimination isn’t allowed in how the services are provided.
Similarly, no one can refuse giving someone access to public transit or public places, such as businesses, restaurants, parks, churches, schools and theatres for discriminatory reasons.
Conversion practices and therapies: In Quebec, it is illegal to offer any service or therapy aimed at
- changing someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or
- repressing sexual behaviour that is not heterosexual.
It does not matter whether the service or therapy is spiritual or not: it is still illegal.
Important! People are allowed to take steps to affirm or accept their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It is also legal to accompany someone who is taking these steps. For example, people can be accompanied by a psychologist if they are questioning themselves about their gender identity or sexual orientation.
It is a crime in Canada to cause someone to undergo conversion therapy. A person who has undergone a conversion therapy can file a complaint with the police.
Solutions for harassment or discrimination
If you’re the victim of discrimination or discriminatory harassment, there are solutions.
To learn more about the prohibited grounds of discrimination, discriminatory harassment or to file a complaint, visit the website of the Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse [Quebec human rights commission].
For situations involving the federal government or an organization regulated by the federal government (for example, a bank, post office, airline or telecommunications company), you must file your complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Anyone who has undergone a conversion practice or therapy can ask a court for compensation for any harm suffered. Even if the harm happened during childhood, there is no deadline for making this request to a court.
To learn more about the deadlines for going to court, see our articles Prescription and No More Deadline to Sue for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.
If the service or therapy was offered by a member of a professional order, you can file a complaint with the professional order. This could be the order of psychologists or the order of social workers, for example. (A professional order is an organization that oversees a profession.) The professional could lose the right to work in that profession or have to pay a fine of between $5,000 and $150,000. If the professional is at fault more than once, the fine is doubled.