Similar to the recent Sarah Huckabee Sanders @ Red Hen incident, Vancouver had a customer being refused service due to wearing a Make America Great Again hat.

Basically, the manager asked him to remove his hat, otherwise he would not be served. To my knowledge, this was not a question of the dress code at the establishment.


I'm pretty confident - and supportive - that the customer would be in his right to sue on basis of discrimination if the service had been refused due to him being gay or being a member of a particular race.

The Charter guarantees among other things, right of association, expression and belief. So is it a stretch to say that it would cover publicly displaying party affiliation, if no other circumstances motivated not serving the customer? Are there any legal precedents covering political protection, as a customer, not an employee?

Full text @ http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html

  • 1
    The difference between skin colour and political views is that a skin colour is exactly that: a skin colour, whereas a MAGMA hat implies certain political beliefs and actions that some would consider highly undesirable. Not arguing anything one way or the other, but they are simply not the same thing; to illustrate with an extreme example, if someone comes in dressed as an SS officer or KKK member, then I hope they are shown the exit in most establishments.
    – user11249
    Jul 1, 2018 at 9:29

1 Answer 1


Here's the relevant section of the Charter (Constitution Act 1982, Part I, s.15(1)):

Equality Rights

Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law

  1. (1)

    Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

"Political affiliation" is more a property of freedom of association; it's difficult to argue that it's a property of any s.15(1) protection. As well, "law, program or activity" doesn't affect private behaviour, only governmental actions [1].

Absent Charter rights, what legislation would this fall under? You'd have to look at provincial human rights legislation for this: in this case, the British Columbia Human Rights Code (RSBC 1996, c. 210), specifically s. 8 :

Discrimination in accommodation, service and facility

  1. (1)

    A person must not, without a bona fide and reasonable justification,

    (a) deny to a person or class of persons any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public, or

    (b) discriminate against a person or class of persons regarding any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or class of persons.

Again, "political affiliation" (or a close analogue) doesn't appear on this list. Thus, it's not a protected class for who a business is required to serve. The only place where political beliefs is taken into account is for employment (ss. 11, 13-14). As the BC Human Rights Clinic puts it:

In B.C., protection from discrimination on the basis of political belief or affiliation is provided in the areas of:

  • employment (hiring, firing, or terms and conditions of employment);

  • employment advertising; and

  • membership in a trade union, employer’s organization, or occupational association (such as, excluding, suspending, or expelling from membership, or discriminating against a person or member).

Very few human rights cases have been determined on the grounds of political belief. However, as a general guideline, it’s best not to base employment or membership decisions on a person’s political belief unless you have a bona fide reason to do so. For example, where a person is applying to work for a particular political party, it would be reasonable for the employer to seek information about an applicant’s political affiliation. However where there is no direct correlation between the work and someone’s political affiliation it’s best not to ask the question.

[1]. Mary C. Hurley. Charter Equality Rights: Interpretation of Section 15 in Supreme Court of Canada Decisions. Ottawa: Government of Canada (Law and Government Division), 2007.

  • interesting. I truly would have expected political beliefs to be protected (outside of strictly the employment context) as well. Seems like an odd omission, as the Charter specifically recognizes that it may be superseded by "reasonable laws", so it need not, for example, open the door to hate speech. Jun 30, 2018 at 17:27
  • Other provinces do have political belief as a category: cbc.ca/news/world/…
    – ErikF
    Jun 30, 2018 at 17:35

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