What can I do if I experience discrimination at school?

Students in Ontario deserve to have a safe school experience that is free of discrimination and harassment. This means that we are all entitled to basic human rights and there are laws put in place to protect us.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is when you are treated unfairly or being denied the same opportunities, experiences and privileges as others. Ontario's Human Rights Code says that you must not be treated differently because of:

  • Your race or cultural background
  • Where you were born 
  • Your skin colour
  • Your religion
  • Your gender or gender identity
  • Your sexual orientation
  • Your age
  • Your mental or physical disability

Is discrimination the same as bullying and harassment?  

It can be, but bullying and harassment alone are not necessarily discrimination. Although all are wrong and hurtful, only unwanted mean words, actions, or physical attacks that relate to the Ontario Human Rights Code are considered discrimination.

Why does discrimination happen?

Discrimination often happens when a wrong opinion is formed about a group of people. It’s based on a lack of information and negative ideas that are formed from having little to no understanding of different cultures, people or customs.

There is no excuse for discrimination and it is always wrong. If you are being discriminated against, it can be very painful and you may feel scared and alone. But you are not alone and you can take steps to make it stop.

What can I do to stop discrimination against me or someone else?

If you or someone you know are victims of discrimination and are being harassed, mistreated, or bullied, you don’t have to tolerate it. You can take the following steps:

  • Contact the police in your area right away if there is physical abuse and bullying, or if you feel you are in any sort of danger.
  • Talk to your teacher, principal, parents, or an adult you trust about the situation and let them know exactly what is going on.
  • Write a diary of all the incidents as they happen and include dates, times, names and a description of what was said or done.
  • Find student council groups and a Student Conduct or Student Care Office in your school to help you with your concerns and to discuss next steps.  
  • If you are in university or college go to the Discrimination and Harassment Policy section of your school’s website for more information on how your school can assist you.
  • Even if you don’t see specific people harassing and bullying you but you feel unsafe or feel like things just “aren’t right,” you should speak to a school counsellor or adult to share your concern.

Have some ideas on how you’d like to improve discrimination and harassment in your school?  The Minister's Student Advisory Council (MSAC) was created to help students across the province like you, speak up and have a say on ways to improve schools.  

Check out the School section of our site for more school-related topics.