In Canada it's illegal to discriminate against someone on grounds of sexual orientation or gender. I replied to an ad on craigslist I found and they responded with a boilerplate questionnaire with questions, such as "do you smoke" or "do you have food allergies?"

One of the questions was "Are you straight or LGBT?". I'm fairly certain that it would be illegal for a landlord to base the decision to rent to someone or not, based on their sexual preference. But how on Earth would it be enforceable? I don't think simply asking the question is illegal. Even if a plaintiff could prove that they weren't selected to rent the house, what can be done about it? For the land lord to rent to them because they asked if they were straight?

Also the questionnaire asked about tattoos. Is it a form of discrimination if a person is judged based on tattoos? I know some jobs require their employees to cover tattoo at work.

EDIT: the main question is, what should/can a person do if they are asked the question and are likely in the minority group? For example if someone who is gay is asked by the landlord if they are gay, and then not given the house?

2 Answers 2


The Ontario Human Rights Commission lists the discriminatory grounds that are forbidden, and none of them pertain to appearance. This document says what information can be used in selecting tenants (the actual regulation is here). The informal document claims that "Regulation 290/98 under the Code permits no other inquiries", and the regulations say roughly that, but they do not actually prohibit asking other questions. One may presume, though, that the intent of the commission was to say "any inquiries not expressly permitted by this section are prohibited". This does not mean that you necessarily live in Ontario, but if you did, that would be the applicable law.

It should be pointed out that there are loopholes such as per. section 14 a

special program designed to relieve hardship or economic disadvantage or to assist disadvantaged persons or groups to achieve or attempt to achieve equal opportunity or that is likely to contribute to the elimination of the infringement of rights under Part I

also per section 21 in case the accomodation is where the landlord lives and there are certain shared facilities.

  • For the enforcement part, you'd have to bring up a civil case with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. They just need to prove that there were treated unfairly or discriminated against in an area of the code. Although, I'm somewhat confused as to how section 14 of the code applies here since the other questions asked don't necessarily support that. But it's good stuff to know for others too :)
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 20:59
  • @Zizouz212 even if a person proves they were treated unfairly or discriminated against, what damages would they be seeking? For example would they be compensated money or would they automatically be given the house etc?
    – SamK
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 22:49
  • @SamK I haven't looked at many cases regarding housing; I've looked mostly at employment. From the cases of employment, you often get special damages (damages that were received as a direct result of the action), and general damages (damages for feelings of hurt and so on). The HRLSC has a page devoted to damages here: hrlsc.on.ca/en/how-guides/what-remedies-are-available-me-hrto Also, are you in Ontario? This is provincial legislation, so it's not the same in British Columbia for example.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 23:56


There are situations where information about someone's status within the protected classes can be asked/identifiable (e.g., at an interview your race and gender are presumed from your appearance) but these characteristics must not be taken into account when making any decision. If there is no valid reason for the question to be asked (in this case I would say there isn't) then upon rejection you would have a case but asking the question is not forbidden, it is just inadvisable.

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