FAQs: Community organizations
- Can emergency shelters restrict access to individuals based on income?
Emergency shelters provide services to individuals who cannot afford to pay for market shelter, and as a result can restrict access based on income. For example, a shelter can refuse access to someone whose income is over a specific level. An emergency shelter cannot, however, restrict access based on the source of an individual's lawful income. For example, it cannot refuse access to someone because they have a job.
- Can community organizations restrict access to their services based on gender?
Community organizations can provide services only to men or women if those individuals have been unable to participate fully in society based on their gender, and would not otherwise have access to the services. For example, a recreation organization may set up an exercise program only for women to address the lack of such activities in the community.
- Can sports teams be restricted to males or females?
Sports organizations cannot restrict access to team sports based on gender unless not being able to do so would create undue hardship for the organization. For an explanation of when undue hardship would occur, see the Alberta Human Rights Commission interpretive bulletin Duty to accommodate.
- Can religious organizations restrict access to services based on religion?
If the religious organization operates as a private club, it can restrict its membership or services to individuals based on their religious beliefs. However, in order to operate as a private club exempt from the Alberta Human Rights Act, the religious organization will have to demonstrate that it restricts its membership and services to those with specific religious beliefs, and that it does not offer commercial services to the public.
- Are community organizations responsible for the conduct of their volunteers under the AHR Act?
Yes. Community organizations are responsible for the discriminatory actions of their volunteers. For example, a community organization would be responsible for the actions of a volunteer who sexually harassed one of its clients.
- Can a community organization restrict membership on its board of directors on the basis of a protected ground?
If the organization's mission is to serve a specific group, then it may be allowed to restrict membership or election to the board on that basis. For example, a women's transition home might want to allow only women to sit on its board of directors. The AHR Act allows such a restriction, but only if it is reasonable and justifiable. This means that the community organization must be able to show that the restriction is necessary for it to carry out its primary mission, and that it would be unable to accommodate those affected.
- Can a community organization require that those who use its services attend religious services or otherwise participate in religious activities?
Unless the religious requirement is reasonable and justifiable under section 11 of the AHR Act, a requirement that service users attend religious services or, for example, pray together, is discrimination under the AHR Act.
- Can a club restrict its membership to men or women?
If a club or social organization does not provide any services to the public, it may restrict membership on any criteria.
Revised: February 1, 2010
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