Community organizations: What you need to know
The Alberta Human Rights Act protects members of the public against discrimination when they use the services of community organizations. The AHR Act does not protect against poor treatment or bad service, unless it flows from any protected ground. The protected grounds are race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation.
Examples of discrimination covered by the AHR Act:
- removal of children from sports teams or activities based on the conduct of their parents
- denial of service based on any of the protected grounds
- denial of volunteer opportunities based on any of the protected grounds (Under human rights law, volunteering may be considered to be a form of employment. For more information about human rights related to employment, see Human rights in the workplace.)
However, there are three exceptions that allow specific types of age restrictions that do not contravene the AHR Act: benefits for minors or seniors; seniors-only housing; and age-restricted condominiums, co-operative housing units and mobile home sites that existed before January 1, 2018. You can read more about age as a protected ground and about all protected areas and grounds.
Examples of issues not covered by the AHR Act:
- complaints about poor service not based on a protected ground of discrimination
- complaints against private clubs
- complaints about the amount of membership dues
- complaints about organization operations, such as elections, not based on a protected ground of discrimination
Community organizations are responsible for ensuring that their services do not discriminate against members of the public based on any of the protected grounds. To meet this obligation, community organizations need to review their services regularly to identify and eliminate any potentially discriminatory aspects of their service. For example, a community organization might review the criteria for becoming a board member to identify any discrimination based on a protected ground such as marital status, family status or gender.
If a community organization has a requirement that would discriminate against people based on a protected ground like marital status or gender, it has a duty to accommodate affected individuals to the point of undue hardship. Accommodation means making changes to any rules, standards, policies or physical environments to ensure that they don't have a negative effect on anyone based on any protected ground. For example, a cultural organization that provides various services and charges higher fees to non-members who are not of the club's identified cultural population discriminates based on place of origin or ancestry. The cultural organization could accommodate non-members by allowing them to join the organization or by charging all users the same fees.
Individuals who require accommodation based on a protected ground have a responsibility to inform the community organization of their needs. Doing so gives the community organization the opportunity to make any changes necessary to accommodate the individual making the request, as well as anyone else with the same or similar needs. For more information about the duty to accommodate, see the human rights guide Duty to accommodate.
In some circumstances, discrimination may be reasonable and justifiable. A service provider may refuse to offer services to some people based on one or more protected characteristics if providing the service would be an undue hardship. For example, a community organization that provides shelter services to women who are the victims of domestic violence might only permit access to its facilities to women.
Revised: July 4, 2018