Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

The Ontario Human Rights Code's Distributive and Recognitional Functions in the Workplace Adjudicating Human Rights in the Workplace: After Ontario's Pinto Report, Where Do We Go Next

Document type Article
Author Mummé, Claire
Journal Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal
Volume 18
Date 2014-2015
Pages 145-176


In her analysis of the purpose of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the author draws on Nancy Fraser's distinction between the two main strategies that have been used to combat inequality. Strategies of redistribution, which prevailed among equality activists in the early twentieth century, see inequality as arising from unequal access to economic resources. Strategies of recognition, which have come into prominence more recently, see inequality as arising from sociocultural prejudices that deny equal recognition to disadvantaged groups. Although the Ontario Human Rights Code is often seen as focusing on rec- ognitional issues, the author argues that through the market relationships the Code regulates and the remedial powers it grants, it also adopts a redistribution strategy designed to address the economic impact of prohibited discrimination: that is, the Code aims to change how resources and opportunities are to be allocated for those with protected identity traits. An understanding of the inter- action between the Code's recognitional and redistributive functions sheds light on its purpose and method of operation, as well as on its relationship to other equality-seeking legal mechanisms such as collective bargaining and the equal- ity rights provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thus, the need for a range of legal tools to counter inequality in different contexts comes more clearly into focus.