I once took a psychology course where the professor pointed out that the word "discrimination" can be more broad than the way it is generally used. For example, it can be considered discrimination that only people above a certain height are hired as firefighters. Athletes may not make the team because they can't lift a certain amount etc.

What exactly counts as illegal discrimination? For example, I know a person can't be refused service due to their race or skin color.

In particular, I'm wondering about discrimination against students. There was a sign posted on a store saying, "only 3 students allowed in at a time". I've heard that was illegal as it presupposes students are thieves.

  • According to a mate who is a 6'5" volunteer firefighter, they like hiring one small (5'2") person who can sometimes get into places and save lives where the 6'5" man can't.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 17:57

2 Answers 2


Even though student status is not on the list of protected classes, this still might be discrimination. By proxy.

Status as student can be a proxy for age, race, and/or color. Maybe even religion if there is a religious school nearby!

In fairness to the store manager, when a pack of ten kids comes rolling in on the way home from school things can get pretty hectic. Rather than try to kick out the problem kids many managers will attempt to avoid the problem in the first place.

Also, a sign like this might help the manager be less discriminatory. For example, let's say he lets all kids in and only kicks out the ones who are causing problems. If those problem kids are all in one protected class and it's different from the kids who don't get kicked out, the manager looks like he's discriminating based on that protected class.

Discrimination by proxy can be hard to prove and I am not sure of the burden of proof in Canada. I have read that "Canadian experience" is used as a proxy in employment discrimination and has been getting some attention lately. That might be a good issue to keep an eye on as it may define proxy discrimination jurisprudence.

  • What does "by proxy" mean?
    – FunFacts12
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 9:50
  • 2
    Substitute. You figure out a characteristic of the group you want to discriminate against and use it as the criteria rather than naming the group.
    – jqning
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 12:04

In Canada, the Human Rights Act proscribes discrimination.

However, student status is not a grounds for discrimination as per the Act:

the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

  • Out of curiosity can someone be discriminated against by eye color? This guy tried to make a point that he couldn't be denied service because he had blue eyes huffingtonpost.com/aaron-greenspan/…
    – FunFacts12
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 9:52
  • Well, that wasn't a case where discrimination was alleged, it was a breach of contract, and it was a case that held that vague/arbitrary terms may be unenforceable (termination for any reason). That was also in the United States. However, there are numerous US cases that hold that eye color is not included in the definition of impairment, for example here, here and here
    – jimsug
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 10:19
  • I worked at a large company that published their company rules saying that all kinds of illegal discrimination wasn't allowed for employees. They had a comment site, so I proposed they shouldn't allow discrimination for anything that isn't work related. So they couldn't refuse to hire a supporter of the "wrong" football team, for example. Probably tricky if they want to get it right.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 18:00

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